Medical staff at new Sweet Home Health Center say use is on upswing

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home Health Center is open for business, and its physician’s assistant is staying busy seeing patients who have had a hard time finding access to primary care doctors.

The new service opened with a full-time physician’s assistant starting on Jan. 4 at 799 Long St., the intersection of Long Street and Oak Terrace, inside the Linn County Health Services building. It opened part time on Dec. 7.

The center hosted an open house Thursday evening. It was not widely announced, including to The New Era.

“People are coming in,” said Sherlyn Dahl, director of Community Health Centers of Benton and Linn Counties, which operates the clinic. The program is open to anyone. It accepts patients with the Oregon Health Plan or third-party insurance. For those with no insurance, fees are billed on a sliding scale based on income, with a $20 minimum fee.

In the cases where patients have no insurance, the center will help patients sign up for the Oregon Health Plan if they qualify, Dahl said. Some patients may have high-deductible insurance, and some have insurance that doesn’t cover some procedures. Those patients may also find relief with the sliding fee scale.

The Sweet Home Health Center is part of Community Health Centers, which offers similar services in other communities, including Lebanon. It is funded by a $650,000 federal grant.

“We’ve seen anywhere from 10 to 12 in a day to just a couple,” said Lanoi Case, client services manager. “Everything from little kids with ear infections and babies doing their well baby check to the elderly population taking care of their needs.”

The most important thing about the center is it helps in prevention, said Chris Rodriguez, the physician’s assistant. “Literally, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Mostly, he has been providing routine check-up services, he said. “I’m seeing more of the retired population coming in just looking for some primary care services.”

The center is filling in for a “lack of primary-care services in the area,” Case said. They’re coming there because some local clinics are closed to new patients.

“One of my patients was driving to Portland,” Rodriguez said. Right now, “unlike most providers, I can easily take an hour with each patient. The plan is to eventually have two providers out here.”

“We’re just starting to build awareness,” Dahl said.

And the word is spreading to family members of patients who are finding primary care there, Rodriguez said.

Community Health Centers is currently recruiting a physician to join the staff in Sweet Home full time.

For more information, call (541) 766-6835.