Dunsmuir clinic: use or lose it

Richard DuPertuis
A realty sign confuses the issue at the Dunsmuir Siskiyou Medical Group office Monday. SMG was not for sale. As the sign above implied, the building is shared by two separate owners. It is the dental office side that has been put on the market. SMG is, however, facing a critical shortage of patients, and Dr. Jim Parker said that if Dunsmuir do not use it more the clinic will be closed.

People of Dunsmuir seeking medical attention may soon find that they have to drive to Mount Shasta or further, as the only clinic in town is considering closing its doors from lack of use. During a telephone interview Sunday, Dr. Jim Parker of Siskiyou Medical Group said that he believes the Dunsmuir office could be kept open if patients in town adopt the clinic as their primary provider of medical services.

He said that SMG has for a long time held to their commitment to keep an office open in town. “Maybe it’s a sign of the times, I don’t know,” he sighed. “It would be a shame for us to not supply service to the Dunsmuir population.” He cited the loss of money from Dunsmuir operations for some months recently as the reason for the possibility of closure.

“It’s always been marginal,” he said. “We’re fine with it not making any money. That is perfectly acceptable.” But he said that they are no longer willing to allow it to operate at a loss.

He said that there is no reason for people to use the office in Mount Shasta instead. “Both clinics offer the same services, the same quality,” he stressed. “There’s no difference in cost.” In terms of wait time, Dunsmuir is even better. “People can make an appointment in Mount Shasta and wait for two weeks to see someone,” Dr. Parker said. “Or they can call Dunsmuir and get in that day.”

He said they are letting people know, both about the potential for closing and about how easy it is to save the clinic. To that end, Certified Physician's Assistant Jacqueline Parker is spreading the word about the clinic.

On the phone, Jacquie Parker said she approached SMG to ask for a little time. “I felt that if we advertised, got the word out to the public that anyone could come in if they have needs they've been postponing, let their friends and neighbors know the clinic is there, they could keep the doors open,” she said.

She said SMG has given her six weeks to turn the situation around. That was one week ago.

“They gave me a budget for radio ads and for flyers,” she said. She has gone door to door to merchants downtown and has posted flyers all over town.

Reading from the flyer posted in the Dunsmuir SMG office Monday, the work week has been divided between Parker and Family Nurse Practitioner Jeanne Yalon-Owens.

Mondays and Wednesdays Parker is available for appointments from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Yalon-Owens provides all the services a Family Nurse Practitioner can.

“The perception is that I am just a nurse, or I get called ‘doctor’ a lot,” said Yalon-Owens in the office for consultation Monday. “Neither is correct.” She said that as a nurse practitioner, she is licensed to provide health care service independent of physicians and other providers.

“I perform physical examinations, make diagnoses, treat medical problems, prescribe medications, and order radiology and laboratory tests,” she said. Her specialty is diabetes, both Type 1 and 2, and she has 15 years experience in pediatrics.

Yalon-Owens, like Jacquie Parker, stressed that  they have teamed to run a full-service clinic, equal in treatment capability and quality to that of the Mount Shasta clinic in every way.

Parker, having herself been a medical services provider in the region for over 30 years, said that no matter which SMG clinic patients utilize, they can visit any of its clinics and have access to its on-call system 24 hours a day.

She said that policy dictates a 15-minute response on any call. “A doctor will call back and, with the patient, determine the best course of action,” she said. She added that if hospitalization is needed, a doctor will meet a patient at the hospital, day or night, to provide whatever treatment is required.

She also said that the Dunsmuir office of SMG offers the services of Joan Conlan, a pedorthist, providing foot care, especially for the elderly and those with diabetes.

According to Yalon-Owens, the shortage of doctors in rural communities has resulted in nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants stepping in to fill any gaps in medical services. At SMG the two women can work independently or, as needed, in concert with a doctor at Mercy Medical Center, the SMG clinic in Mount Shasta or in the Dunsmuir office itself.

She said that Dr. Jim Parker works there four hours a month so the clinic qualifies for 95210 underserved rural status, which means a higher MediCal reimbursement rate.

Dr. Parker wants to keep Dunsmuir’s SMG doors open. “It’s doable if we can interest the public in using the clinic,” he said. He estimated the increase in caseloads necessary to avert closure at 12 to 15 additional patients per week. He said that he is doing everything he can think of to bring in those extra two or three more Dunsmuir patients each day.

“We’re not going out of there without giving it our best shot,” he declared.

Family Nurse Practitioner Jeanne Yalon-Owens teams with Certified Physician's Assistant Jackie Parker to provide a full range of medical services at the Dunsmuir Siskiyou Medical Group office. The two women said they represent decades of experience and expertise and they offer the same quality of care patients receive at the Mount Shasta office.