I strongly support the Nehalem Bay Health District’s bond measure in the May 16 election, and I hope my experience will help voters understand why.
First, it is important to know that the Nehalem Bay Health Center (NBHC) is a FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center).
FQHC clinics are outpatient, low-cost clinics that receive federal grant funding and have specific reimbursement systems under Medicaid and Medicare. For a health center to qualify for federal support, it must meet strict standards:
• Provide services to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay
• Offer a sliding fee program
• Be a public or a non-profit organization
• Be community based
• Have a board of directors composed mainly of their patients
• Serve a medically underserved area
• Deliver comprehensive primary care services
• Have an ongoing quality assurance program
The Nehalem Bay Health Center is also recognized as a National Health Service Corps site. These are sites where newly minted physicians or dentists can seek a position in return for loan forgiveness.
When I came out of residency, I was not in the loan forgiveness program, but I did want to serve an underserved population.
Once clinics and hospitals know that you are looking to work in these areas, they begin to heavily recruit you; each clinic showing off what they can offer in terms of modern equipment, congenial colleagues, housing, etc.
I was lured by Navajo Area Indian Health Service because the recruiter was knowledgeable, responded quickly, and I was attracted to the area – Chinle, Arizona – despite it being remote because wonderful doctors worked there.
I provide this background to underscore that a new, modern health center in north Tillamook County with a seasoned medical staff that can mentors new physicians will attract new doctors and providers to our area. We already have the natural beauty and to be honest, we are not THAT remote or rural.
The Health Center has also done amazing outreach, including distribution of culturally appropriate food boxes to families in need and attendance at health fairs to educate and sign people up – both in Spanish and English – for Affordable Care Act benefits.
The NBHC also started a successful school based health center at Neahkahnie High School for students, teachers and families, and developed a transportation program to help people visit the health center. All of these efforts provide incredibly valuable services to the community, but there can be even more, and we will need more in the future. The bond measure addresses current needs, but also plans long term.
A new facility will improve quality and accessibility for everyone in the community, will attract more medical staff and benefit seniors, families and children.
I really hope the community supports this opportunity.
(Dr. Yvana Iovino is a retired OB/GYN. She practiced with the Indian Health Service in Arizona and with the Yakima Valley Farmworkers clinic in rural Eastern Washington. She lives in Manzanita and serves on the board of the non-profit Nehalem Bay Health Center and Pharmacy.)
For more information on the Bond Measure, please see www.nehalemhealthcare.com/