The good news: Primary care is available in Sequim.
The bad news: Many patients of Sherwood Medical Clinic haven’t arranged for new providers.
Rhonda Curry, assistant administrator at Olympic Medical Center, urged Sherwood patients to "start making those calls." Unfortunately, Curry said, "Many people haven’t done anything to get new providers."
Following the death of Dr. Paul Hoque in October 2008, Sherwood Medical Clinic was unable to attract a physician to replace him. Olympic Medical Center stepped in to keep the clinic running and continue recruitment, but those efforts have been unsuccessful. The clinic is scheduled to close Sept. 30.
Because the closing affects so many patients – about 2,800 – Olympic Medical Center is monitoring very closely the transition to new primary care providers. The clinic gave 90 days notice to allow patients plenty of time to secure new providers. The law requires only 30 days notice.
As of Monday, Aug. 17, according to Curry’s latest poll of local clinics, about two-thirds of Sherwood’s patients have found new doctors, leaving an estimated 800 to 1,000 still without primary care,
To help people find the physicians they need, Olympic Medical Center established a locator service that is available by phone at 800-DOC-6260 or online at www.olympicmedical.org.
Pacific Primary Care has openings for 1,000 or more new patients among several providers, said Dr. Carl Weber. "We just added Rob Dalm full time," Weber said. Dalm previously worked at Sherwood Medical Clinic and can take many new patients.
Weber said that Kim Deprati, a physician assistant, works half time in primary care and is available for patients who prefer a female provider. Curt Haugen, P.A., also has many openings.
"We’ve been accepting quite a few from Sherwood," Weber said, and although appointments sometimes are booked out three weeks or more, all their providers have capacity to take new patients.
Primary Care Sequim & Walk-In Clinic is accepting new patients, with primary care provided by advanced registered nurse practitioners. ARNPs are fully qualified to prescribe medications and refer to specialists. With three full-time providers and a fourth scheduled to join the practice in mid-September, they have openings for many new patients, according to Sandra Ramsey, practice manager.
ARNPs provide routine care for hypertension, diabetes and obesity, help manage chronic health problems and offer lab services, according to Ramsey. Although they cannot admit patients directly to nursing homes or hospitals, they work closely with local specialists, other primary care providers and Olympic Medical Center to ensure appropriate patient care.
"Patients needing primary care can come by the clinic to sign a records release form and pick up new patient paperwork," Ramsey said. "Providers review records to see if patients are appropriate for our clinic."
Gene Burwell, clinic administrator at Jamestown Family Health Clinic, said they have limited openings at this time and are considering new patients on a case-by-case basis.
"In the past few days, we’ve been swamped," Burwell said, noting that the vast majority of the new patients are coming from Sherwood Medical Clinic.
Curry said patients who don’t secure new providers will be unable to renew prescriptions and will not have access to the regular checkups and overall health monitoring that a primary care provider offers.
If someone has no established primary care provider, they can get medical care at a walk-in clinic, the hospital emergency room or one of the free clinics in the area. Curry called these options the "last resort" for primary care needs.
Reach Sandra Frykholm at sfrykholm@sequim