Valach, a Mountain Home physician, has been a bit of a mystery man, since renting the clinic in January to open a primary care practice. He asked to meet with the Fulton County Hospital Board on Monday, Sept. 12, to describe his plans to develop a strong practice and, perhaps, settle in Salem.
While Valach has specialized in nephrology - the treatment of patients with kidney disease - he opened the Salem clinic to become a family doctor.
"Since January of this year, we expanded our services and coverage on to primary care, including adolescents to senior citizens," said Valach.
Valach explained he began coming to Fulton County once a month four years ago, to consult patients with kidney problems.
Over the years, he has expanded to monthly visits and has come to like Fulton County, because it reminds him of the rural county where he grew up in Czechoslovakia.
"I have grown my interest in the community and doing more here," Valach told the board.
According to Valach, his father was a family physician and he attended medical school and served a year of military physician service, before "escaping" in 1985 from Czechoslovakia, which was a Communist country, at the time.
|After arriving in the U.S. in 1986, Valach attended Penn State University for additional training and licensing, eventually specializing in nephrology.||Valach was recruited to Mountain Home in 2001, where he became medical director of the Baxter Regional Hospital dialysis unit and established a private practice.|
After years of treating and working to extend the life span of older, often, very ill patients, Valach says expanding into primary care is appealing to him.
"You have younger patients. There is a little more hope and optimism in taking care of them," said Valach. "My intention here is to move toward into full-fledged primary care, internal medicine."
Valach's Salem clinic includes two nurse practitioners, and he is in the office five days a week.
"I am a small town person and I love this place," Valach told the board, adding he had arranged to place his name and medical specialties on signs at the hospital entrance and the clinic.
Valach said he is continuing to admit patients to the Fulton County Hospital, and expressed hope the hospital will overcome its financial problems and continue to be "a good, small community hospital."
Unlike the two physicians who were recruited for the family clinic venture, Valach laughed as he told the board, "I don't cost you anything. I pay my own rent (for clinic space)."
Board President Jerry Estes and other board members welcomed Valach.
"By no means do we want to do anything that would discourage you from being here," said Estes. "I believe you are the type of doctor we want in the area."
"We're glad you're here," said board member Sue Hertzog.
After the meeting, Valach told The News he intentionally decided on a low key opening, as he established his local practice.
"I wanted to get to know the other physicians better and blend in and collaborate," said Valach. "I am not here to take over, but I think I can help fill the need for more physicians. I know it is not easy to recruit doctors to this area."
Valach began his visits to Fulton County four years ago, at the invitation of Dr. Rebecca Phillips, to consult with patients with kidney problems.
"I have been welcomed by the other doctors," Valach added.
According to Valach, his office has steadily attracted patients in its early months, convincing him there is room in Fulton County for another medical practice, especially with some physicians eyeing retirement.
"Mountain Home has several large, primary care practices," said Valach. "I prefer a solo practice in a small town, and I feel there is a need here and plan to be here for a long time."