Capital Medical Center in Olympia abruptly closed its clinic in Elma last week and has told patients to start using its Olympia facilities.
Kalpana Martin, the physician practice administrator for the hospital, cited health care reform and budgetary cuts as the driving force, which caused the clinic to close.
“This has been a long time coming for us,” she said. “We’ve been planning for this for over a year. The reimbursement rates have been cut for Medicare and Medicaid and insurance companies are cutting back. This is a national issue and it’s very unfortunate.”
Martin noted that many of the patients using The Clinic at Elma relied on Medicare and Medicaid. The clinic was located at 515 W. Main St. in Elma.
Elma Mayor Dave Osgood said that he’s heard overwhelming concern from members of his community, not sure who their primary physician will be in the future.
“We have problems in East County finding and getting primary care doctors to come here,” Osgood said. “We are very grateful to have the hospital here in town. This came out of the blue for me. No one contacted the city or has told us anything.”
“It is with regret that I am writing this letter to inform you that The Clinic at Elma will be closed, effective April 26,” Martin wrote to patients, explaining that new patients are being accepted at the hospital’s two clinics in Olympia and giving a way for patients to secure their medical records.
“If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me,” Martin writes to patients. “I have valued our relationship and wish you the best of health in the future.”
The clinic closed on April 26, but many patients didn’t get notice until the letter arrived on May 1. The letter offers no reasons for the closure and neither does the voice mail message at the clinic, warning patients not to leave messages because nobody will hear them.
County Commissioner Wes Cormier, who lives outside Elma, said his wife had just tried to make an appointment at The Clinic at Elma and was turned away and told it would be closing.
The closure comes as a surprise to Commissioner Herb Welch, who said the clinic was his primary physician, who first helped him discover his cancer.
“They really didn’t make much of an effort to tell patients what was going on before they closed the doors,” said Welch, who lives in the Wishkah Valley. “That’s for sure. I know there’s no way I’m driving to Olympia to see a doctor.”
Chief Nursing Officer Brenda West at Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma said that they are aware the Clinic at Elma has closed and are trying their best to help as many patients as possible.
“I think we absorbed 160 patients so far,” West said. “We’re trying very hard. If any of them call us, we’re trying to accommodate them.”
Summit Pacific Medical Center has a clinic inside the hospital, as well as a family practice in Elma and one at the old Mark Reed Hospital in McCleary.
West said that people who have contacted the hospital simply don’t want to go to Olympia.
“We’ll take as many as we can,” West said. “We’re going to do everything we can to help.”
Mayor Osgood said he’s simply worried about the quality of medical care in East Grays Harbor.
“It’s obvious we need more doctors,” Osgood said. “We need to be celebrating the new hospital and finding ways to make sure clinic don’t close their doors.”