County closes clinic
Residents who visit the Nevada County Health Clinic on Willow Valley Road after this week will be told that the county-run clinic is closed, except for teen services two days a week.
No official announcement was made about the closure, which could come as a surprise to many residents who use the service.
“We will be educating (clients about the change) on an individual basis,” County Director of Community Health Dr. Hank Foley said.
Residents seeking services at the clinic will now be referred to the private clinics in the area – the Miner’s Medical Clinic and the Sierra Family Medical Clinic. A teen clinic will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Willow Valley Road site.
County officials cited a lean county budget as the reason they began looking for alternatives. When the proposed budget came out this year, the community health department showed a $375,000 shortfall, county Chief Fiscal Officer Joe Christoffel said.
Talks about transferring “duplicate” services and creating a joint-venture teen program with the Miner’s Medical Clinic began about five months ago. The closure went into effect Tuesday when the county’s final budget was approved by the Board of Supervisors.
Foley said that the change will actually enhance services because an additional staff person at Miner’s Clinic will free up more time for patients.
“We don’t provide primary acute care at the clinic,” Foley said.
He said patients who “need to get stitches or something of that nature” had to go to a private facility anyway. Most people would come for the male and female reproductive health care services, which he described as “comparable” to the services at the other clinics. They will be available at the other clinics on a sliding scale.
Nurse Practitioner Alexa Curtis, who has provided some services at the county clinic during her 15 years of occasional work with the county, said patients had the right to be notified about the change “at least a month in advance.”
“The client was ignored, the client’s needs were ignored, and ultimately the county isn’t going to save anything,” Curtis said.
She also cited concerns that the primary facility that patients will be referred to, the Miner’s Medical Clinic, is not an appropriate spot for an at-risk population. “The county is trying to insert that large client base (the at-risk population) into the Miner’s system that does not even have the mission to serve this population,” Curtis said.
Because of a concern about the visibility of the Miner’s Clinic on Zion Road for teens who are seeking services, the county collaborated with Miner’s administrators to keep the teen clinic open 10 hours a week at the current location.
“The teen clinic is actually going to be a joint venture between the county and Miner’s Clinic. We will provide the health education, and the actual hands-on medical clinic will be done by Miner’s,” said Nevada County Human Services Agency Directory Jess Montoya.
The staff at the community clinic who will not be involved in the teen program have been absorbed into other county departments. The were given pink slips two weeks ago, but “those positions have been picked up by other county programs. So in reality there will not be any staffing impact,” Montoya said.
Labor costs make up the highest percentage of the county’s community health budget, but Curtis is skeptical that closing the clinic will save the money, because personnel is not being cut.
“We are losing out over $100,000 of billable revenue. That is why Miner’s wants this population, because they can get these funds. They have always struggled to stay open,” Curtis said.
Montoya said that Miner’s Clinic is currently in the application process of becoming a federally qualified clinic, which means “they would get to be able to expand the number of people they have on staff.”
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