With the upcoming departure of its three doctors, Oakhurst Medical Group, located at 40232 Junction Drive, has announced a Dec. 31 closure of the office.
Two of the doctors - Kelly Tracey and Jeffrey Barigian are relocating and Dianne Sachau is leaving the practice for personal reasons.
Family Nurse Practitioner Philip Morin has been out of the office since mid-September following a dislocated pelvis sustained during a high country mule-packing trip. Following surgery, Morin was in a wheelchair for eight weeks and is now using a walker while continuing physical therapy. His return to the primary care field is undecided at this time.
A letter about the closure was sent out this week to about 3,000 patients advising them of the situation and providing the names of four primary care physicians with Community Medical Providers in Fresno and Clovis. The letter also provided phone numbers for the Fresno-Madera Medical Society (559-224-4224) and Care Finders (559-233-2273) to assist in obtaining a new healthcare provider.
The closure does not affect the office of Dr. Daniel Schaffner, a second Community Medical Providers office in town, however he is not currently accepting new patients.
An earlier letter from the Oakhurst Medical Group urged patients to begin a search for a primary care provider as soon as possible due to the critical shortage of doctors in the United States, especially in rural communities such as Oakhurst.
Morin, who was born and raised in Oakhurst and has been serving Mountain Area patients since 1979, said the timing of all three doctors leaving and his injury forcing him out of the office was unfortunate.
“This office has been looking on a national level for the past four years to find new physicians, however due to the shortage of primary care physicians across the country we have not been able to find anyone,” Morin said.
“It has been estimated that by 2020, the country will be short some 90,000 physicians and that number will jump to 135,000 by 2025,” he added. “About 25% of current practicing physicians in the country are 65 years old or older.”
Morin also noted that about 55% of the patients at Oakhurst Medical Group are over 65 years old and with aging across America, patients are older, requiring more frequent medical service.
Although the population has increased significantly, there are currently about the same number of physicians in the Oakhurst area as there was in the mid to late 80s. The loss of the three Oakhurst Medical Group doctors would have been critical to the community if not for additions of doctors to the area, specifically at Camarena Health, Adventist Health (two locations), Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, the Coarsegold Medical Clinic and, if eligible, the Veterans Community-Based Outpatient Clinic.
All the above providers are currently taking new patients.
Reacting to the three departing doctors, the John C. Fremont Healthcare District has been reaching out to the Oakhurst community. In a recent ad in the Sierra Star, the district said its three family practice physicians, doctors Caroline Rose, Mimi Carter and Robert Rose, along with internal specialist Grace Ang, are now accepting new patients.
The doctors, along with Physician Assistants Melissa Heyer and Al Montoya, are all located at John C. Fremont Hospital, 5186 Hospital Road, Mariposa (jcf-hospital.com).