Clackamas County loses low-income health clinic

From the Oregonian, December 31 2008

Another site, in Molalla, shut just six months ago

Low-income Clackamas County residents will have a harder time getting health care now that another clinic is closing.

The closure of the Sandy clinic today comes six months after the county closed the health clinic in Molalla. The county plans to close its remaining clinic, in Beavercreek, within the next year or two.

Mental health services and a nutritional program for women and children will continue to operate at the Sandy clinic. Other patients can transfer health care to Yakima Valley’s Rosewood Family Health Center, 8935 S.E. Powell Blvd. in Portland, 503-772-4335.

County officials say rising costs, falling revenue, a tight county budget and a need to upgrade inadequate buildings and equipment have forced the closures.

The clinics serve patients who lack private medical insurance, have low incomes or participate in the Oregon Health Plan. Patients are billed on a sliding scale based on income and household size.

Last year, the three clinics treated about 10,500 people, about 1,000 more than in 2006. The treatments included prescriptions, dental work, immunizations, family planning and mental health services. The clinic in Sandy had two full-time health providers until August, when it was reduced to one, said Janelle McLeod, the county’s primary care manager.

The county has said a nonprofit, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, would care for patients displaced by the closures.

The Yakima Valley clinics in Southeast Portland and Woodburn will be unable to immediately absorb all the patients from the closing clinics, said Yakima Valley clinic administrator Daniel Heindel, but will take in new patients on a rolling basis.

The clinics expanded their combined staff from 14 full-time medical providers to 16 full-time and one part-time provider, he said.

To date, the Yakima Valley clinics have not seen a big increase in the number of patients. That may be because low-income residents have trouble commuting greater distances or are finding help elsewhere, said Yakima Valley spokesman Glenn Cassidy. He said Yakima Valley has no plans to open new clinics in Clackamas County.

In 2007, the Clackamas County clinics operated on an $8.9 million budget with money from federal grants, patient fees, health insurance reimbursements and other sources. About $1.5 million came from Clackamas County’s general fund.