DOCTOR SPEAKS OUT DURING HEALTH FORUM

August 26, 2000 12:00 am

There were a few heated moments, when Dr. Charles Hochberg challenged Dr. Mark Silver, but the panel discussion on health care at the Chetco Senior Center Wednesday night focused primarily on the positive, looking for ways to improve health services in the community.

The exchange began when Dr. Silver said he believed an after hours urgent clinic could be opened in Brookings that could treat Oregon Health Plan (OHP) patients.

When Dr. Hochberg asked Dr. Silver if he would accept OHP patients at his Brookings Harbor Medical Center, he responded it would be a separate clinic, probably not in our building.

Dr. Hochberg said that would create a two-tier system with physicians assistants seeing the sickest patients and doctors seeing those who can afford to pay, with the OHP patients referred to Curry General and the private pay patients going to Sutter Coast.

Hochberg received a round of applause.

A statement was made that Sutter Coast Hospital does not accept OHP patients, however, Sutter administrator John Menaugh said Friday that Sutter Coast does accept some OHP patients in their urgent care clinic.

Moderator Brookings Mayor Bob Hagbom said, Were not here to throw rocks about whats happened in the past. Were here to look forward.

Earlier in the meeting Hagbom said he had been told by state administrators, You fight so much we cant do anything for you.

He indicated he believed the community could work together to prove those people wrong.

Good news was the announcement that a committee will be formed to look for innovative solutions, and Kathy Ingram, Ph.D., who helped Jerry Livingston obtain a grant for the Port Orford Clinic, said there is a window of opportunity for obtaining a grant through the Rural Health Outreach Act.

She said she will work with the committee to write a grant proposal and get it submitted by the Oct. 16 deadline.

Well have a committee in position by the weekend, Hagbom said.

Additional good news came from Jim Burfield, who told the group the Curry County Transit that operates through the senior center can now provide free transportation to medical appointments for those eligible for the assistance.

Curry General Hospital chief of staff Reg Williams M.D. explained the hospitals interest in Brookings-Harbor, and why services provided in Brookings Harbor must be self-supporting.

This year 52.8 percent of all services provided by the hospital were for Brookings-Harbor residents, he said.

However taxpayers in Curry Health District who support the hospital object to extending services into the area not within the taxing district, if it requires health district funds.

The health district ends at Pistol River.

Aaron Robbins, radiology department supervisor, and Mark Jones, laboratory supervisor, from Curry General told about improvements in hospital equipment in the last 18 months. All brand new state of the art, as good or better than anywhere in the U.S., with 100 percent degreed people.

Other panel members included Lawrence Witt M.D., Marlin Montgomery DDS, Kelly Lowther M.D., Peter Lowther, Curry County Health Department Supervisor Barbara Floyd, and from Curry General Hospital, clinical administrator Ginny Hochberg, Bets Brytus, Sharon Richards, Richard Sloniker and P.J. Estlund.

Dr. Witt explained the problem of lower reimbursement rates for health services for OHP patients in Curry County compared with the large cities.

He also said Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement in Florida are double the rates paid in Oregon.

Were being penalized for providing more efficient health care, he said.

He said the best solution for providing care for OHP patients in the community is for every doctor to take a share of those patients.

Floyd, who has been county health director since 1989, said the problem of health care for the elderly on low incomes and other low income people has been a problem as long as she has been in the county.

Providers have not shared the load to care for low income people, she said.

She suggested a way to approach problem, if we all work with the medical providers with friendly, or unfriendly, persuasion.

Ingram said, We need the cooperation of the members of the community.

In spite of some evidence of frustration with past attempts to solve the medical service problems, many appeared to feel encouraged by Wednesday evenings meeting.

With many members of the medical community apparently willing to work on the problem, and the promise to form a committee aided by professionals to obtain some grant funding, many appeared to believe something good may happen.

Friday, Hagbom said they have a list of people willing to serve on the committee and he has been promised cooperation from the doctors.

Were going forward as fast as we can, he said.