Clinics plan for future without Rideout Health affiliation
April 10, 2017
Rideout Health's March announcement it would be ending its association with four Grass Valley clinics — three primary care and one cardiology — will cause a disruption for many local patients and health care professionals.
In most cases, however, patients who want to remain with their doctors should have the option to do so, one way or another.
Dr. Peter Callahan, a cardiologist at Rideout Specialty Care Center in Penn Valley, will be joining Dr. Kuldip Gill's practice in Grass Valley after the Penn Valley clinic closes on April 30.
The other two employees from the Specialty Care Center, a receptionist and medical assistant, have already been hired by Dignity Health.
"There'll be some unsettling times between the closure of this clinic and the time I can get my new office up and running," Callahan said. "In essence, should (patients) choose to stay with me, the office hours and clinic should run essentially the same as they did with Rideout, just in a different location."
Callahan expects to accept every insurance carrier Rideout accepts, though he admitted that's not something for which he can be certain.
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"It's always hard to know what will happen with insurance companies," he said. "To try to predict that is something beyond my capabilities."
Dr. Todd Bouchier, M.D. and Dr. Jon R. Pritchett, M.D., who work at Rideout Primary Care at 360 Sierra College Drive, have decided to start a private practice.
"Our current plan, and there's a lot of moving pieces right now because we don't have a solid plan yet, is to relocate with our staff and continue business as is," Bouchier said. "We hope that everybody just transfers over and it's a smooth transition."
Both doctors, along with nurse practitioner Donna Murtaugh, have had other opportunities to join existing practices, but all three have declined.
"We just wanted to stay as a cohesive unit," Bouchier said.
In addition to medical, there are 10 employees on staff. In all likelihood, everyone will keep their jobs.
Location is another question. The lease on Sierra College Drive is owned by Rideout, which has told the clinic it plans to honor its lease through June 30. The most likely scenario is the offices will move, but when that happens is another question.
"That means we literally need to be starting a new job July 1," Bouchier said. "Now, the likelihood we'll have a new office ready by July 1 is slim to none. So we're hoping for a temporary period we can sublet this place and kind of Band-Aid it until we're ready to go."
Bouchier said he expects a smooth transition for the clinic's patient base. Any insurance accepted by Rideout should be accepted by the new practice.
"We should be able to maintain our patient base in terms of our payer mix, meaning what kind of insurance we see currently," he said. "It's largely Medicare, and then we see a large portion of commercial insurance, so this is your HMOs and your PPOs. What we don't see a lot of currently is Covered California, and that will probably continue to be the case once we move."
Bouchier said a lot of anxious patients have been asking questions about Rideout's decision and how it affects them.
"It's a daily event," Bouchier said, "just because of the uncertainty and people just don't understand. 'Why was this decision made? What does it mean? Do we still have a doctor?' So there's a lot of explaining that needs to happen. People feel reassured after we talk to them."
NOT GOING ANYWHERE
Rideout Primary Care at Grass Valley, 402 South Auburn St., will not be closing or relocating.
"I'm continuing practicing without change or interruption as I have for almost 19 years … I'm connected to the community, I enjoy medicine and my patients," Dr. Garrett Eckerling said. "I'm not retiring or closing my practice. I'm not moving."
Eckerling said the clinic will continue with no obstacles for current patients, and all eight people on staff, including the two medical providers, will keep their jobs.
"The patients aren't going to notice anything different," Eckerling said. "It's going to be the same as it was before… The transition, when we transitioned into Rideout, was seamless. I anticipate the transition will be the same."
CLOSING, STAYING CLOSE
Not everyone's staying together.
Dr. Lezley Brown of Rideout St. Moritz, 225 Colfax Ave., did not return a call seeking comment. Dr. Linda Foshagen, also of Rideout St. Moritz, was not available on Monday.
To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.