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Dr. Eli Mayes will be the new dental provider at the Elgin Health Clinic. He has been collaborating with the Elgin Health District for the last year and a half and will sign a 15-year contract with them later this month. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Elgin Clinic expands hours, adds dental services
The Elgin Health District has announced expanded medical hours and full dental services available later this month at the Elgin Health Clinic at 1400 Division St.
Since last January, the Elgin Health Clinic’s operation, staff and management has been provided by Dr. Kim Montee, medical director of the South County Health District. The clinic is currently open four days each week with Dr. Montee on staff two of those days and Bonnie Hayslett, P.A., the other two days.
“So we’ll have a medical doctor at the Elgin Health Clinic each week,” said Dr. Montee. “In addition to that, we are going to offer some expanded hours: Tuesdays and Wednesdays
The extended hours on Thursdays will allow access time for those who work, and Bonnie Hayslett will be on staff that day, said Montee. The clinic will continue to take new patients, including the uninsured and those on the Oregon Health Plan, Medicare, Medicaid
“Our desire is to meet the need when the need arises,” said Dr. Montee. “For the most part, it’s a clinic that has an appointment schedule that we try to follow. We are usually pretty good at seeing people the same day, and often if people walk through the door, we ask them to take a seat until we can work them in. It’s not technically or fully a walk-in clinic, but it’s more of a standard, continuous or continuity clinic. Medical patients may call the clinic and speak with the receptionist, Jenna.”
Dr. Montee also said that there are two different CHD counselors who also operate from the clinic facility. Each counselor spends a half day each month serving the needs of Elgin residents. Ultimately, it is Dr. Montee’s goal that both the Union and Elgin clinics get certified in the new Oregon and Obama Care approach, what is called the “patient-centered primary care home.”
“When you become a PCPCH,” said Montee, “you want to provide all-encompassing services, and one of the things that asks for is better mental health services locally and also better patient care coordination services. This might include social work things like transportation for patients to distant medical appointments, assisting to keep their power on, things that directly affect health care but aren’t strictly a delivery of medicine.”
In terms of serving the medical needs of the school population, Dr. Montee sees a need for growth there.
“The clinic doesn’t offer as good of services as I hoped it would,” he said. “In the past, Bonnie would hold a clinic in the school, and since she is only there half time, she is not doing that. It is my hope that we would be able to provide that again. That may require a change in manpower. Certainly we try to accommodate any kids and staff who come across the street to us, but we don’t actually have a person in the school on any regular basis at this point.”
The Elgin Health District has been approaching its goals systematically and prioritizing according to the more immediate needs of the community, however bigger goals are on the
“The board is feeling they can dedicate more thought and resources toward the future,” said Dr. Montee, “and toward looking to building a new facility in the not-too-distant future. This is partly due to board member Jared Rogers and the success the fire protection district had with building the fire station.”
In the interim, Dr. Montee and the Elgin Health District board members would like to restore a service that Elgin residents lost a few years ago when Derv’s Drug Store closed.
“In the shorter term, we’d like to provide some kind of pharmacy ability,” said Dr. Montee. “I’ve talked to a pharmacy in Union about some options, and most recently I talked to a company that offers pre-packaged medications. Both of them, in the absence of a true commercial pharmacy have some of those ‘must have’ medications available, like an antibiotic for pneumonia, and we need to be able to handle it. We’re looking at options there. It won’t be as nice as a commercial pharmacy because we can’t bill out insurance, but we’d be looking at ways to keep things very affordable, selling at cost or cost plus a dollar. So we’re thinking that way, but in the end, I’d like to see a full-fledged pharmacy like we had before in Elgin.”
Full dental services coming
Aside from the medical health care services, the Elgin Health District also announced that later this month, the clinic will offer full dental services. This decision comes after nearly two years of research and planning. A local health-needs survey confirmed the need to move forward on this project.
By state and federal government definitions, Elgin is a designated “health professional shortage area” for oral, physical and mental health needs. The survey revealed that almost 20 percent of Elgin residents are uninsured. Just as many are on OHP, and of those, almost 48 percent have not seen a dentist in the last year. Nearly 46 percent of residents report difficulties paying for dental care on their own.
Consequently, the Elgin Health District began seeking a dentist who would enter into a long-term contract for dental services. Dr. Eli Mayes of La Grande showed an interest, and the district board has since negotiated and approved the terms of a 15-year contract with him. The contract will be signed and made official at the next board meeting this month.
Dr. Mayes is a native of La Grande and has been practicing dentistry since 2005.
“I grew up and graduated in La Grande, and attended dentistry school in Virginia,” said Dr. Mayes. “I spent three years practicing in Alaska, especially with children because that’s where good oral health all starts. Then in 2009, I came back to become a partner with Dr. Pat Nearing in La Grande. When I came back here, I found out that Elgin didn’t have a dentist. But everything fell into place. Elgin is very progressive, and it got a health district board put together, and I walked right into the middle of that. The board and I have been working together for the last year and a half on this project.”
Dr. Mayes said the dental clinic will be open four days each week. He has hired a clinic receptionist and a hygienist, both from Elgin. The hygienist will work two days each week and Dr. Mayes will work the other two days, providing a full spectrum of dental care, including extractions, oral surgeries, root canals, periodontal surgeries and care, dentures, crown and bridge work, general fillings and sealants for 6- and 12-year-old children. He plans to hire an office manager when the clinic opens and will recruit a dental assistant from his La Grande practice where he will continue to work three days each week.
The Elgin Health District contributed $50,000 from its funding to hire Elgin carpenters to renovate the existing clinic’s rear rooms for the dental operatory. This work was completed last year, and just recently the clinic received a facelift with new flooring and paint.
With assistance from Northeast Oregon Network, a local health collaborative, the health district wrote and submitted grant proposals to fund the remainder of the project. The grants have been approved, and in most cases the money has been awarded and received from three foundations in the amount of $69,684. The Wildhorse Foundation awarded $7,500 toward the renovation of the clinic. The Collins Foundation awarded $25,000 for a computer and dental equipment, and Meyer Memorial Trust Foundation awarded $37,184 for dental supplies and equipment.
Two dental chairs have been installed, and plans are in place to buy some top-of-the-line equipment, including an X-ray machine, a vacuum system, supplies, various drills, a light and an appropriate filtration system unique to a dental office. Dr. Mayes and some other area dentists have also donated about $25,000 worth of supplies for the clinic. He has personally donated a lot of his time to the project, frequently driving out to the site, coordinating all the architectural work, dealing with all the lawyer fees, and he said the contract is all but signed.
“We still have two outstanding grants pending,” said Dr. Mayes, “one from Murdock Charitable Trust and another from Oregon Community Foundation, which would help the Elgin Health District to fully equip the dental clinic. Once we get those grants, then it’s just a matter of being able to accept insurance, Oregon Health Plan and Medicare patients. All of these (administrative) things are in progress. Our application for OHP has been accepted, so we’re just waiting for the pending funding, and our first days of dentistry can start.”
Dr. Mayes will also be supporting the school program with the nurse, including a sealant clinic to help all the kids (ages 6 and 12) to get sealants on their teeth. For the past couple of years, Dr. Mayes has been heading up the screening program at the Oregon Dental School in La Grande, and of the 300 kids screened from Elgin, he said only one or two kids responded by showing up for the free dental care.
“Now we’ll be able to do that kind of care locally at the clinic, and we should have a much better response because we think the low turn-out was probably due to transportation challenges,” Dr. Mayes said. “I’m very excited about this and that it’s all coming together, and I look forward to helping out the community.”
For more information or to reach the Elgin Health Clinic, call 541-437-6321.