OAKHURST – With the cut back in hours of service over the past few months, there has been a lot of concern recently over the status of Urgent Care in Oakhurst.
Dr. Joel Figatner, a physician on contract at the facility for many years, raised the issue at a Town Hall meeting at the Oakhurst Community Center on Nov. 14, urging residents to make their voices heard about the importance of the emergency room to the mountain area.
Michelle Von Tersch, Communications Director at Community Medical Centers, parent company of Urgent Care and the Rural Health Clinic, responded to a request for comment on the current situation.
“Community Medical Centers has no plan to close the Oakhurst Community Health Center,” said Von Tersch. “This health center provides clinic and urgent care services, which are less than what a hospital emergency room would provide. We understand that it’s long been an important health center in Oakhurst, but it is also true that for some time the facility has faced challenges with increasing operational costs, diminishing reimbursement rates and physician staffing.
“Our entire region faces chronic physician shortages and Community works aggressively to recruit physicians to our region for all of its facilities, Oakhurst included. Compounding our recruitment challenge is the fact that fewer physicians today are interested in pursuing careers in rural medicine; this is true across the country.
“We have heard, anecdotally, of a private practice group serving Oakhurst which has been trying to hire an additional physician for a year without success. Our challenges are not unique.
“Community has been studying options to more efficiently run the center and strengthen its long-term viability. This involves looking at a complex landscape of many factors, including possible partnerships, new reimbursement models and recruitment strategies, and how the facility works with the rest of the Community Medical Centers’ network.”