Small Town News


Westwood clinic's fate still in limbo

Westwood PinePress of Westwood, California

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Rumors that Westwood Family Practice will reopen in December are unfounded, according to Al Gugenberger, CEO of Northeastern Rural Health Clinics.

He said there has been no change in funding sources although the California legislature may make budget changes mid-year.

The Board of Directors for NRHC made a decision to close its Westwood and Doyle clinics July 31 when it learned it would need to address a projected budget shortfall of $788,000 due to state cuts.

These cuts included the funding for the Healthy Families Program and Expanded Access to Primary Care Program as well as the adult dental MediCal program.

NRHC also lost a rural health grant worth a quarter million dollars.

A town hall meeting in August led by Gugenberger at the Westwood Community Center did not result in any new suggestions for ways to keep Westwood Family Practice open.

The board had already reviewed a multitude of possible solutions to the clinics financial problems including operating three days a week with minimal staffing.

On average the nonprofit provider of outpatient care in Lassen County lost from $53 to $21 per patient in West-wood for a total of $109,220 during the last fiscal year from June 2008 to May 2009.

Gugenberger said he investigated the one solution that had promise, which was to designate the Westwood clinic as a rural health center.

It was reported that by rurally designating the clinic, it would receive a higher reimbursement for medical care. However Gugenberger said that when he looked into the matter he found such a designation would make no difference in the amount of money the Westwood Clinic would receive.

Westwood patients have been advised to seek medical care at the health center operated by NRHC in Susanville.

Westwood Family Practice opened in Westwood in 1979, operating from a rented facility. In May 2002 construction began on a new building that was completed in February 2003.

The new facility had seven exam rooms, a centrally located nurse's station, office space for providers and a waiting room with a children's area. It measured 3,240 square feet.

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Original Publication Date: September 30, 2009

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