Adventist to take over urgent care

mvoorhis@sierrastar.comFebruary 11, 2014 

After nearly four decades, Oakhurst Community Medical Center (commonly known as Urgent Care) will transition operations to Adventist Health/Central Valley Network effective June 1.

"Adventist Health impressed us with its reputation for expanding access to quality care in the 22 rural communities it serves in Kings, Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties," Tom Moser, COO for Clovis Community Medical Center, said. "We are pleased to learn they are considering expanding services to include pediatrics, OB, dental and diabetes education."

"Our focus right now is listening to Oakhurst staff, physicians and community members, and learning from them," Christine Pickering, marketing and communications director of Adventist Health/Central Valley Network said. "Leaders will be visiting Oakhurst again tomorrow (Feb. 11) and many more times in the weeks ahead. Then we'll have more information about services and positions there."

The first of a series of meetings was conducted last week between the current Urgent Care staff and Adventist Health.

"Staff seemed to appreciate having representatives from Adventist at the meeting this morning (Feb. 6) when they were informed about the transition," Director of Communications for Community Medical Centers, Michelle VonTersch added. "It was important to us that our employees have an immediate opportunity to hear firsthand about Adventist's experience in caring for patients in outlying communities, including several mountain communities, and Adventist's eagerness to learn more about our patients in Oakhurst."

According to Adventist Health, they plan to interview and hopefully retain most of the staff at the Oakhurst center, to interview for nurse practitioners, physician assistants, licensed vocational nurses, medical assistants, registration clerks, support staff and possibly others, and to contract with physicians.

"Each clinic addition is different because each community is different, but our practice is to add providers and services to our clinics," Pickering explained. "For instance, since our Orosi clinic joined us in September, we've added internal medicine and family medicine physicians to that clinic and are working to add endocrinology and cardiology physician services this spring."

"Adventist Health specializes in increasing access to quality care in rural communities like Oakhurst," Pickering continued. "We added 17 locations to our Community Care clinic network from 2009 through 2013, and we train family physicians in rural medicine through two residency programs. Our Selma training program is part of the University of San Francisco-Fresno residency, and our Hanford program is affiliated with Loma Linda University."

Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler welcomes Adventist Health to Oakhurst, saying he is looking forward to working with them, along with all the healthcare professionals in Eastern Madera County, to help ensure the continued availability of urgent care services.

"Healthcare availability is critical to our area, and having 24-hour urgent care for all is our highest priority. If we all pull together, we can make it happen," Wheeler said, "so I invite Adventist Health, and every healthcare provider in the mountains, to join me in creating a working group with the sole task of bringing reliable, 24-hour urgent care to Eastern Madera County."

Wheeler plans on scheduling a meeting, and inviting all the healthcare providers, including Adventist Health, to participate.

The Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce, which has taken on the fate of Urgent Care services as a major project, had been pro-active in attempting to meet with Community Medical Center's CEO Craig Castro.

Now that the facility will be changing hands in June, the chamber has requested a meeting with Scott Reiner, president of Adventist Health, to discuss serious concerns.

"According to Dr. Joel Figatner," Todd Miller, Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce president said, "Adventist Health will not be supplying emergency healthcare to our mountain residents. Adventist plans seem to indicate that they will open a 'clinic.' More disconcerting news is that Adventist will not stock any narcotics for pain relief. Their lab procedures will be limited to seven tests. The chamber finds the loss of emergency medicine in Oakhurst to be unacceptable."

In response, Pickering said, "Because we're currently listening and learning about Oakhurst, it's premature to say what services we'll provide. Every community is different, and we adapt our clinic model accordingly, within state and federal patient care and safety requirements. We look forward to learning more from chamber leaders and community members about Oakhurst and the surrounding communities."

The Adventist Health/Central Valley Network is a nonprofit, faith-based organization operating more than 50 sites in Kings, Tulare, Kern and southern Fresno counties, including four hospitals — Adventist Medical Center in Hanford, Central Valley General Hospital in Hanford, and Adventist Medical centers in Reedley and Selma. These hospitals, 24 community care clinics and outpatient centers employ more than 2,700 employees, who see an excess of one million patients per year.

The Valley Network is part of an integrated healthcare delivery system with nearly 20,000 employees serving communities in California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Founded on the health values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Adventist Health provides services in 17 acute care hospitals, more than 130 clinics (rural health and physician clinics), 14 home care agencies and four joint-venture retirement centers.

It was during a regularly scheduled Town Hall meeting last month, that Wheeler announced that Oakhurst's Urgent Care was up for sale, and that Adventist Health was one of the bidders. At the time, Wheeler expressed his concerns over its reputation of reorganizing facilities into clinics, similar to Camerena, which could mean the end to emergency services in the Mountain Area.

"We have reached out to our local county government, as well as our state assemblymen and senator," Miller stated. "The chamber recommends that every citizen of the Mountain Area write to each of these representatives to bring their attention to this crisis."

According to Pickering, Adventist will be leasing the clinic and urgent care space from Clovis Community, and the remaining tenants will stay.

"Community Medical Center – Oakhurst will continue operating as they always have until June 1," Pickering reiterated. "We're all working to ensure a smooth transition."

Adventist Health accepts Medi-Cal, Medicare, most insurance plans, and offers a discount program for the uninsured. They are currently working on a web page which will be both informational and have a comment form.

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