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Last updated 8:08AM ET
December 13, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Health Clinic To Stay
(2008-06-23)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: One year after opening, it looks like a stop gap clinic set up to address a shortage of primary care physicians in the area is here to stay.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports.

NICHOLS: WE HAVE OUR WAITING AREA OUT HERE, IT'S BRIGHT AND SUNNY, AND OUR RECEPTION AREA...WE HAVE A...
VICTOR: Nurse Liz Nichols took me on a tour of the Mercy Regional Medical Center Health Services Clinic.
It's located in the Medical Office Condo's across from the new library, now being built on the old Mercy Site.
The clinic opened just over 12 months ago after Valley Wide pulled out of Durango, leaving ten to twelve thousand people without access to primary care physicians.
Rick O'Block is a Director at Mercy who oversees the Health Services Clinic.
O'BLOCK: WE'VE HAD REALLY GOOD RESPONSE FROM THE PATIENTS. VERY FEW CONCERNS EXPRESSED FROM PATIENTS. IT'S BEEN WELL RECEIVED BY EVERYONE WHO'S GONE TO THE CLINIC. WE'VE DONE AROUND 9-THOUSAND ENCOUNTERS. AN ENCOUNTER IS A PATIENT, COULD BE MULTIPLE TIMES, SO 9-THOUSAND ENCOUNTERS FOR THE YEAR WHICH IS GOOD.
O'Block estimates the clinic is now serving 4-to-5 thousand individuals.
It's staffed by several nurse practitioners, and Dr. Vanessa Feliciano.
FELICIANO: WE GET A LOT OF PATIENTS WHO ARE SO GRATEFUL, AND EVEN DURING THE VISIT THEY'RE JUST LIKE "THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, I JUST CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE."
82-percent of those being seen at the clinic are medicare, medicaid or self pay individuals, with the balance having commercial insurance.
Feliciano says it's serving those intended at the outset.
FELICIANO: DEFINITELY, I MEAN A LOT OF PATIENTS JUST HAVEN'T HAD A PHYSICIAN FOR A LONG TIME OR HAVE HAD A DIFFICULT TIME GETTING IN, ESPECIALLY OUR ELDERLY PATIENTS OR RETIRED PATIENTS WHO ARE ON MEDICARE. AND SO FAR WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO GET IN PATIENTS FAIRLY QUICKLY, EVEN AS NEW PATIENTS.
While the clinic appears to have been successful in its first year, both O'Block and Feliciano say it suffers from a perception that may keep people away.
O'BLOCK: WHEN WE ORIGINALLY SET THIS CLINIC UP IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A STOP GAP CLINIC, AND PEOPLE REALLY WEREN'T INTERESTED, I THINK, IN ESTABLISHING A PRIMARY CARE RELATIONSHIP WITH A CLINIC THAT COULD POTENTIALLY GO AWAY.
FELICIANO: I THINK PATIENTS ARE JUST FRUSTRATED WITH HAVING TO CHANGE PROVIDERS SO OFTEN, OR NOT KNOWING WHAT THE FUTURE WILL HOLD, BUT I THINK WE CAN SAY WITH CERTAINTY THAT THERE'S A LOT OF COMMITTMENT.
O'Block says while the primary care shortage created by Valley Wide's pullout is being addressed it still hasn't been resolved.
He says there are plans to expand service and turn the Health Services clinic into more of a primary care facility.
O'BLOCK: WE'RE ON THE CUSP OF MAKING AN OFFER TO ONE OF THOSE PHYSICIANS, THEY'LL BE WORKING OUT OF THAT CLINIC. AND SO WE'LL BE EXPANDING THE SERVICES OR AT LEAST EXPANDING THE PROVIDER BASE OUT OF THAT CLINIC AND WE FEEL VERY CONFIDENT THAT PEOPLE WILL TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT, AND THAT PRACTICE WILL BE ESTABLISHED VERY VERY QUICKLY.
Both the city and county contributed funds for the clinics operation this year.
O'Block says those amounts should be reduced in future years as the patient base grows.
A Rural Health Care Clinic designation being sought could also increase Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to the clinic.
And they're exploring possible options to bring primary care to Bayfield and Ignacio.
While physician practices locally are continuing to struggle at times with low reimbursements and other issues, Dr. Feliciano, a 2003 UNM Grad who for a time worked in Farmington and with Indian Health Services, says she's here to stay.
FELICIANO: IT'S BEEN THE MOST REWARDING JOB I'VE EVER HAD. THIS IS REALLY FULFILLING, I JUST FEEL LIKE NOT ONLY AM I DOING MEDICINE, BUT I THINK WE'RE MAKING A DIFFERENCE AND THE PATIENTS ARE SO GRATEFUL.
NICHOLS: THESE ARE ALL THE EXAM ROOMS, PRETTY TYPICAL.
As Nurse Nichols and I conclude our tour she points out six additional exam rooms at the clinic, which could provide room for even more growth.
NICHOLS: WE DON'T RENT THIS SPACE AS OF YET, FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND, BUT I EXPECT IT WILL BE AVAILABLE AND WE COULD DO THAT.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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