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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, July 26, 2010, 2:30 am

Health care: Sebastopol health center doubles; also: new doctors for Sutter

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    The Sebastopol Community Health Center has doubled in size over the past two years and has added two specialists as it continues to expand.

    The center, opened two years ago as the first clinic among the West County Health Centers to have all electronic medical records, is expecting an increase of 1,500 patients in the near future on top of the 4,500 already served, according to Jennifer Neeley, fundraising manager for West County Health Centers.

    “We were the first community health center in the region to implement an electronic health record, we work with other clinics in the Redwood Community Health Coalition who are preparing for implementation,” Ms. Neeley said, adding that the electronic records were made possible through a series of grants and stimulus monies made available for federally qualified health centers.

    The five clinics of West County Health Centers – Russian River Health Center, Occidental Area Health Center, Russian River Dental Clinic and Mental Health Services, Forestville Teen Clinic, and the Sebastopol Community Health Center — currently serve about 12,000 patients with 48,000 visits per year.

    The new specialists work in areas of orthopedics and general surgery.

    “Many of our patients have chronic illnesses and having specialty care available is very helpful,” Ms. Neeley said. “The majority of our patients are low income and uninsured, and that number continues to grow.”

    The center in Sebastopol is also hoping to attract more specialists in the near future, in areas of cardiology, psychiatry and neurology, Ms.  Neeley said.

    The center has also physically expanded, with the lease of 3,500-square feet in office space to accommodate the increase in patient volume, Ms. Neeley said.

    West County Health Centers’s five sites, serving primarily low income and uninsured patients, expects to reach an operating budget of over $8 million, with about $1 million in uncompensated care annually.  “We envision a community where all residents have a medical home and people are empowered to build healthy lives and communities,” Ms. Neeley said.

    “It’s very difficult to find doctors that will take Medi-Cal patients. So with the expansion, we’re able to attract specialists here. It makes it easier for our other clinics to refer our patients to Sebastopol,” Ms. Neeley said, adding that the patient population tends to have transportation issues and it’s easier to have providers locally than try to commute to San Francisco.

    The five centers cover an area of 770 square miles in mostly rural West Sonoma County.  To learn more about West County Health Centers visit www.wchealth.org.

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    Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation has added three new primary and specialty care physicians in Marin County. Gyorgy Pataki will provide primary care. Mary Burke will provide specialty care in psychiatry, and Christine Jacobson is a dermatologist. All three doctors will work out of the Care Center on South Eliseo Drive in Greenbrae. Dr. Pataki, a board-certified internist, received his M.D. from the University of Pecs Medical School in Hungary. Dr. Burke, who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry, obtained her M.D. from University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Jacobson, board-certified in dermatology, received her M.D. from Stanford University.

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    Through a partnership with the Alliance for Rural Community Health, the Redwood Community Health Coalition is seeking to expand its recruitment of AmeriCorps members to some of its 12 clinics throughout the region. Sonoma Valley Community Center has already gotten two members.

    The Alliance received a federal grant from the National Association of Community Health Centers to bring 22 AmeriCorps nmbers to the area’s health centers, which are often difficult to recruit for, said Pedro Toledo, director of community and government relations for the Redwood Coalition.

    Of the 22 AmeriCorps members, 11 will be asked to work in Sonoma County. Mr. Toledo pointed to nursing student who, through the AmeriCorps program, landed at Santa Rosa Community Health Center, which in turn prompted her to go to nursing school and subsequently returned.

    “Now she’s back in Sonoma County,” he said. “Now we’re expanding it to 11 people. The new focus is to find local people.”

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    Submit items for this column to Dan Verel at dverel@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or fax 707-521-5292.

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