Columbia Memorial Hospital has opened a primary care center in Astoria amid a growing number of patients and a need for more general practitioners.
The Astoria Primary Care Clinic inside the Park Medical Building opens this week. The suite includes 12 examination rooms that were formerly part of the hospital’s chemotherapy clinic, which relocated to the nearby Knight Cancer Collaborative.
In addition, much of the parking between the Park Medical Building and the main hospital now has a two-hour limit to increase availability.
The clinic provides routine screenings, management of chronic conditions, lab services, Medicare wellness visits, medication management, vaccinations, dietary advice and other preventative health services. The clinic also helps Clatsop Behavioral Health in providing medication-assisted heroin withdrawal treatment, along with therapy.
Drs. Kevin Baxter and Anisa Richardson, along with nurse practitioner Mary Rizzo and physician’s assistant Rachel Flescher, will be joined by two other providers to be hired later.
The hospital opened its first primary care clinic in the Warrenton Highlands shopping center in 2013. The clinic has grown from one provider covering 2,000 patients to six covering about 11,500.
“The Warrenton clinic was just overwhelmed with patients, and so we needed a second space,” Rizzo said.
The clinic takes in patients from Wheeler north to Hoquiam, Washington, and inland to Columbia County, with an especially large demand among Medicare and Medicaid patients, Baxter said.
There’s “not a lot of primary care clinics, and I think we’ve built a good medical group here,” he said. “People are gaining faith in it, and they want to come here.”
Every three years, the hospital releases a community health needs assessment in partnership with Providence Seaside Hospital and the Clatsop County Public Health Department. The 2016 assessment found the county was in the bottom fifth of the state in primary care providers per capita.
A recent third-party assessment found that five more internal medicine and family practitioners will be needed by 2020, said Nicole Williams, the hospital’s chief operating officer.
“We’re almost there with the addition of these providers for this clinic and the ones working over in Warrenton,” she said.
Another driving force behind the new clinic is to shorten the 2 1/2 to three-week wait times faced by new patients waiting to see a provider at the Warrenton clinic, Williams said.
Eventually, the clinics in Astoria and Warrenton will each have four doctors, one nurse practitioner and a physician’s assistant seeing patients. One of the new arrivals at the Warrenton clinic, Dr. Elizabeth Erikson from Montana, said she was drawn to the North Coast by family ties and by an interest in being part of the front line in promoting wellness.
“With Columbia Memorial, in particular, they sort of started as more of a hospital with some specialty clinics,” she said. “They realized, ‘Oh gosh; we kind of need more of this foundation of primary care.’”