OAKHURST – As Adventist Health prepares to take over operation of Community Medical’s Urgent Care and Rural Health Clinic, they are meeting with local organizations to answer questions and address concerns about what the transition will mean.
Christine Pickering, Director of Communications and Marketing for Adventist Health, met with Rotary on Tuesday and Kiwanis on Wednesday in Oakhurst.
The Adventist Health Community Care network in Central California is comprised of 32 hospital-based rural health clinics, and they operate 180 clinics in Washington, Oregon and California, making them the second largest hospital-based rural health clinic system in the nation.
“We adapt our clinic model to the needs of the communities we serve,” says Pickering. “We do have experience in mountain health care, and we understand that every community is different and has different needs.”
One of the things Adventist Health will be doing in Oakhurst, which is new to their model, is to have Registered Nurses on staff at a rural clinic.
“We recognize there is a higher level of need in this area with the large volume of tourist traffic,” says Pickering. “Having RNs will allow us to have more types of medications and provide a wider range of services.”
Of greatest concern to many residents is what may be perceived as the loss of an “emergency room.” It seems to be a common misperception that Oakhurst has ever had an emergency room.
Urgent Care centers primarily operate on a walk-in basis, as opposed to regularly scheduled appointments, which may lead to them being confused with an emergency room. Community Care Oakhurst, as it will be known starting June 1 when Adventist Health takes over, will take same-day appointments, and if the need for treatment is immediate, patients will not be turned away.
“Though our rural health model is about building relationships to prevent patients having to go to the ER, we will provide care for anyone who walks in,” says Pickering. (see services comparison chart below)
Facilities that present themselves as providing emergency services fall under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which includes requirements for emergency services, says Pickering. Since Adventist Health operates licensed hospital-based rural health clinics, not emergency services, they are careful to present themselves that way.
Ed Guzman, General Manager at Sierra Ambulance, notes that anyone experiencing chest pains or suffering from a traumatic injury should be headed down the mountain anyway in order to access the appropriate level of care.
“Our ambulances are an ER theater where the staff can stabilize the patient and sustain life for the length of time it takes to safely deliver the patient to the hospital,” says Guzman.
One challenge faced by the previous provider, Community Medical Centers, was finding enough doctors to cover all shifts. The lack of physicians led to a cutback in hours and Wednesday closures.
Pickering acknowledges that they do have to recruit physicians, but notes that Adventist Health has two residency programs where they train doctors who want to work in a rural setting.
“We are very proud of our residency programs. We train doctors in rural medicine. It’s not the same as city medicine, and you have to be ready for whatever comes through the door.”
Pickering also notes that their designation as a hospital-based rural health clinic means they will receive a higher reimbursement. The federal government recognizes that it’s more expensive to provide health care in rural settings, she says, and that will hopefully enable them to recruit physicians.
Adventist Health expects that most of the staff at the current Oakhurst facility will join them as they make the transition.
The clinic will have a patient portal where people can go online to check lab results, connect with staff, and request appointments and prescriptions. There are also certified enrollment counselors available to help people sign up for Medi-Cal, Medicare or Covered California. They accept most insurance plans and offer a discount program for uninsured patients.
Adventist Health has created a web page, www.OakhurstCare.com where community members can gather more information, and send their questions and suggestions through the Comment Form posted on the page.
Below is a comparison chart of what has been provided by Community Medical and what will be offered by Adventist Health:
For more information on the Adventist Health Community Clinic Oakhurst, please visit http://www.adventisthealthcv.com/services_clinics_oakhurst.aspx