Medical care is hard to get these days, especially in rural areas. The brutal fact of life is, people needing care far outnumber those providing it. Here in Union County, a three-week wait for an appointment is the all-frustrating norm.
That’s one good reason why the Union Family Health Center, now operated by a local health district, should have ongoing community support. No question, the clinic fills a vital niche in the local health care network.
This time last year, the clinic’s future was very much in doubt. Oregon Health and Science University, which furnished equipment and paid wages, announced it was withdrawing as the provider. For a while, it looked as if the facility, which serves not just people from Cove, Union and North Powder but patients from other areas as well, would have to close its doors.
Fortunately, the Cove-Union-Powder Medical Association, a citizens group that has advocated and fought for medical care in the area for decades, rallied forces. CUP members were the driving force in formation of the South Union County Health District.
Once the proposed health district boundaries were drawn up, it was up to voters in the Cove, Union and North Powder school districts to approve district formation. They did that in May. Now the clinic is a locally owned, locally administered entity.
The transition has been a smooth one, and it can be said the clinic is a better facility than before. Services have been added. A dental clinic staffed by North Powder dentist Joel Bender is opening this month, and a Boise nurse practitioner specializing in cardiology will be visiting every three weeks.
Still, the financial situation is touch-and-go. The Union facility is getting by for now on patient revenues and donations. Hopefully, Rural Health Status from the federal government, lost when OHSU pulled out, will be restored later this fall. The designation allows for better reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
In the end, though, the clinic will need taxpayer support to stay solvent and expand services to keep up with demands. A tax levy is another thing voters will have to decide upon, sooner or later.
The health district board of directors is still discussing a levy measure, trying to decide on an assessment amount voters will be able to live with. The board is taking care to be right about that number the first time.
A date for the election hasn’t been set, but when it is, here’s hoping the levy sails through. Any reasonable amount should be approved. The Union clinic is too valuable a health care resource to lose.