North Valley Hospital to open clinic in Tonasket

Pricilla DeGraff, ARNP

Pricilla DeGraff, ARNP

TONASKET – North Valley Hospital will open Tonasket Family Clinic bringing additional health care choices to the area.

“We are opening a new family clinic in Tonasket within the hospital itself,” said Hospital District Administrator Warner Bartleson.

The district recently hired Priscilla DeGraff, an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner as the full-time health care provider at the new clinic, according to Bartleson. The district also plans on hiring several new physicians to man the emergency room and who will be available to work in the clinic, said the administrator.

“We will staff it with a combination of Pricilla DeGraff ARNP who will be available to see patients, as well as ER physicians,” said Bartleson. “We feel the whole community has a need to see a doctor on a walk-in basis rather than by appointment only.”

Bartleson adds Tonasket Family Medical will have some extended hours over the other clinics in North County and will be open on weekdays from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“Those hours are set up to provide additional clinic coverage when the other clinics are closed,” he said.

Bartleson said the reasons for opening the clinic are two fold – first, the hospital board saw a need for additional health care options in the Tonasket area and hired DeGraff and second, the hospital has been having trouble lately keeping a full compliment of ER doctors.

“Normally we have eight physicians in family practice in the district and we are down to six. These physicians normally also work as ER doctors,” Bartleson said.

To suppliment the ER staff the district has been contracting with Coast-To-Coast Physicians. Hiring their own emergency room doctors and using them to work in the clinic as well will save the district quite a bit of money, according to the administrator.

“Using the ER doctors will help offset the additional cost of the clinics. At this point we are trying to recruit physicians,” said Bartleson, who adds the district is looking for the equivalent of three full-time ER doctors.

“Having our own physicians will be about half the cost,” he said.

Private clinics will still provide some of the hospital’s emergency room coverage, but by July of 2009 North Valley Hospital will be providing most of the coverage itself through its own physicians, according to the administrator.

“We have been interviewing some ER physicians already, but the process will probably take a long time. It will be a stretch to hire three FTEs by next July,” he said.

The new Tonasket Family Medical Clinic will occupy space on the first floor of the hospital, in a wing already used for visiting physicians.

“Basically the clinic’s providers will see patients out of the same rooms, but with more equipment available,” Bartelson said. “We will take almost all insurance types, including Basic Health and CHIPS. The clinic will offer most of the same services as the area’s other clinics, with the exception of OB.”

Among the services that will be provided at the new clinic are women’s and men’s well care exams, sick and well child exams, children’s immunizations, blood pressure management, weight management, treatment of illness and injuries and allergy treatment.

The administrator says the hospital is operating at “break even,” but if they are unable to hire the emergency room physicians they need and have to keep contracting at twice the cost, that could hurt the bottom line.

“Even though we are down one-quarter of our physicians for the ER, our volumes are increasing… that tells you how hard they’re working and how much they are needed,” said Bartelson.

Work on turning a section of the hospital into a clinic is ongoing and the district plans a grand opening on Aug. 26 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. In addition to offering a tour of the new clinic, there will be a chance to meet DeGraff. There will also be an opportunity to meet the district’s new Radiologist, Dr. Frank Bohmajevich (see related story) and to take a tour to see the new MRI and Bone Densitometer.

In addition, Tara Johnson, the new Physical Therapist and Michael Holmes, the new Occupational Therapist, will be available to meet the public and show off the Health and Rehabilitation Department in its new location in the hospital.

The hospital staff is also offering to help those who would like to apply for the Basic Health and CHIPS insurance programs. Staff asks that those interested in applying should bring their last year’s tax return, income statements for the last 30 days, identification with current name and street address and, if applicable, any court order for child support.

At the grand opening there will be free blood pressure and blood sugar checks, wellness booths providing healthy living recommendations, as well as some free giveaways. Visitors are also asked to take a moment for a free 10 minute massage by massage therapist Daryl Varney.

For more information or to schedule an appointment at the new clinic call toll tree 1-866-991-6411.