OREGON COUNTY -- For many of the 10,000 residents of Oregon County health care is close to the top of the list when it comes to problems of living in a rural community.
The recent retirement of Dr. John Phillips at the Thayer Medical Clinic leaves one acting physician to serve the residents of the county. That is Dr. Diana Koeing at the Ozarks Medical Center (OMC) Clinic at Alton. Nurse Practitioner Glennett Haney is now taking patients at the Thayer Medical Clinic in Dr. Phillips' absence.
County residents for many years have been forced to travel, sometimes long distances, to seek medical care. Because of these circumstances, a group of local residents have organized an effort to get needed health care services in Oregon County.
Karen Perkins and Shiela Russell both sit on the board of directors for the Southern Missouri Community Health Center in Howell County. The clinic is federally funded. Although it is located in Howell County (West Plains), when it was first established Oregon and Ripley counties were to be included in the grant writing process, said Russell, the Oregon County Health Department director.
Russell and Perkins think the time is now to get a clinic located in the county. Russell said last week the health department, although it has nothing to do with the clinic, supports the clinic to the fullest, and medical services are desperately needed in the county.
A group of concerned residents met last month in Alton to discuss the possibility of the clinic. The clinic is currently in the grant-writing stage and Russell hopes to secure $250,000 to $300,000.
"If we (Oregon County) should receive this grant a clinic just like the Southern Missouri Health Care Center in West Plains will open in the county. This is not a free clinic but it will be available to county residents and even residents of Arkansas that have limited or no insurance," Russell said.
She said the clinic will accept Medicaid, Medicare and most private insurance companies. "They will have a sliding fee program for patients who qualify financially; based on federal poverty levels and family size, residents could pay as little as $10 per visit," Russell said.
Russell said services that will be offered at the clinic will be the same as the West Plains clinic.
A date has not been set, but Russell said the community needs to be involved in all aspects of the clinic. A meeting has been planned for mid-November so all concerned persons can participate.
She said, "This is a time for our community to come together. It will be time for all interested in the clinic to ask questions and receive answers." She said the clinic would be governed by a board of Oregon County residents.
Dec. 1 is the deadline for submitting the grant to the proper authorities.