Sweet Home Clinic to get new doctors, nurse practitioner

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Samaritan Health Services officials say they have absolutely no plans to close the Sweet Home Clinic and, in fact, they have already hired or arranged for new physicians to beef up the staff that has been depleted by recent departures.

“Of course, with physicians leaving, there has been opportunity for lots of rumor,” said Kevin Ewanchyna, Samaritan’s vice president for medical affairs. The Samaritan organization manages the local hospitals in Lebanon, Albany and Corvallis, along with other medical facilities including Wiley Creek Community and the Sweet Home Clinic.

Ewanchyna said four physicians have left or have announced that they are leaving Sweet Home, for various reasons. He said Samaritan has two doctors lined up to begin practicing in Sweet Home this summer, along with a new nurse practitioner and another local doctor is splitting time between Sweet Home and Lebanon.

The departures were largely due to relocation, Ewanchyna and Samaritan Lebanon CEO Becky Pape said. Dr. Michael Mills has left because his wife, also a physician, got a new job in southern Oregon, Dr. Michael Alperin has been called to active duty in the military, and Dr. Michael Kasschau plans to move to New Hampshire in August to be nearer family. Dr. Megan Spohr plans to leave the clinic in September to devote herself to working entirely in a hospital.

To help fill the gap, Dr. Tim Hindmarsh, who lives in the Holley area, will move to Sweet Home in August from the Mid-Valley Medical Plaza in Lebanon. Dr. May Hindmarsh, Tim’s wife, is already splitting time between Lebanon and Sweet Home and will likely continue doing so, Ewanchyna said.

A new doctor, Lance Large, who has moved to a home previously owned by his grandparents in the Lacomb area, has been recruited to fill one of the other vacancies in the Sweet Home Clinic.

“He wanted to practice in the area where his family has lived,” Ewanchyna said.

The other vacancy will be filled by Dorothy Albrecht, a nurse practicitioner who has worked with Large previously.

“That will get us closer to the full complement of six practitioners,” Ewanchyna said.

Dr. Alan Blake and Dr. Paula Nelson remain at Sweet Home Clinic.

He said the clinic site, once the Langmack Hospital, is getting interior renovation. He said Samaritan hopes to hold an open house in the fall to let residents take a look at the changes.

“This is a very important clinic to Samaritan and to Sweet Home.” Ewanchyna said.

Pape said that an indication of the importance of the clinic to Samaritan is the fact that a physical therapy unit has been placed in Sweet Home.

“It’s not reasonable for people in Sweet Home to have to drive down to the hospital for therapy,” she said.

Ewanchyna said turnover among doctors has become much more common in recent years.

“Recruiting and retention of physicians is a growing problem nationwide,” he said. Many new residents move within three years. This is an era of portability. The days of Marcus Welby starting a practice and staying for 50 years are no longer.”

He said Samaritan is working “very hard” to recruit physicians, and the organization is also working to encourage its physicians to develop deep roots in the community they serve.

“We want to assure people that Sweet Home is very important to Samaritan,” Ewanchyna said. “We’re excited about the growth here. If that requires getting more physicians, that’s ahead.”