Providence Hospital's family medicine center was officially opened this week in a lease signing ceremony at the Fort Lincoln senior citizens complex at 3001 Bladensburg Road NE, the building in which the medical facility is located.

The ceremony marked the beginning of an effort by a private medical agency to bring comprehensive health care services to the northeast area of Washington. When fully operational, the center will be able to serve 30,000 patients annually.

This is a day I think many of us have been waiting a long time for, as we begin this wonderful work here that's an extension of what Providence has tried to do for 115 years in Washington, said Sister Irene Kraus, administrator of Providence.

Kraus addressed a group of about 20 people representing the hospital, the Fort Lincoln corporation, medical center patients and northeast residents. The center has seen more than 50 patients since it began operations Jan. 11 with a medical staff of two physicians, two residents in training, and a nurse-practitioner. All the staff members are supplied by Providence.

The staff will be increased by this summer to include another nurse, two undergraduate medical students and six additional residents. The center is expected to be fully operational in three years. By then, it will have three full-time physicians, 18 residents, and several medical consultants and will be able to serve 30,000 patients per year.

Kraus said the center would provide Fort Lincoln and Northeast residents, regardless of income, with primary medical care in an office setting. The focus is on the family, and the physicians staffing the center are specialists in the new area of family medicine."

Georgetown University School of Medicine is paying part of the salaries of the two full-time physicians responsible for training the residents. Other operating, staff and equipment costs, estimated to range between $300,000 and $600,000 this year, will be supplied solely by Providence, unless the hospital is able to get a government grant.

Ralph Taylor, an official of the Ford Lincoln corporation, praised the hospital's determination to bring health care into the Fort Lincoln-New Town community. He said the 500 families now living in Fort Lincoln would greatly benefit from the service, as would the 16,000 residents the complex eventually expects to house.

Also an hand to witness the signing was William Bryant, architect of the Gettysburg apartment complex in which the center is housed, and Northeast Advisory Neighborhood Commission members Robert Artisst and Harold L. Thomas. Patients who had been served at the center also attended and praised its benefits.

Medical services at the center include general medicine and nearly every other family medicine speciality that doesn't include surgery, said Paul Quinn, administrator of the program. Quinn said the Fort Lincoln site was chosen because it is near Providence Hospital and because local and federal government statistics indicate that this section of Northeast is seriously short of medical care.

The center is open from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. until noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Eventually it will be open six days a week and during the evening. Contained within the center's 6,400 square feet are 16 examination rooms, a treatment room, laboratory, clerical and office space and a conference room.

Dr. Charles Christianson, one of the staff physicians, said the center would use a team approach. Nursing practitioners will handle some consulting functions, along with their regular duties, to give the doctors more time to practice medicine, he said.

"I think obviously family medicine has developed into the medicine of the future," said center director Dr. Francis Land, who established a similar project for the state of Nebraska. "It didn't become a specialty until 1969. Now there are 325 family medicine programs in the nation with about 6,000 (residents) in training. One-third of those residents in training, nationally, are women," he said.