New name, same staff, expanded services
By Ann McCreary
Confluence Health of Wenatchee has partnered with the Country Clinic in Winthrop, and will begin providing health care under the name Confluence Health Methow Valley on Jan. 4.
The physicians and staff of the Country Clinic will join Confluence Health and will continue providing health care in the Methow Valley, said clinic owner Dr. Ann Diamond.
“Our name will change but our faces will be the same,” said Diamond, a family medicine doctor who opened the clinic 15 years ago.
Diamond said she has been in discussions with Confluence Health for about two years, with the goal of assuring the clinic’s survival.
“The truth is that in 10 years I may not be practicing medicine here. I’m a small business owner running a small clinic in a rural area. I needed to find a partner to ensure this clinic will remain in the valley,” Diamond said.
Confluence Health announced Monday (Dec. 14) that an agreement has been reached to purchase the building and assets of the Country Clinic.
The affiliation with Confluence Health will help the clinic address changes in health care that challenge independent clinics, Diamond said. It will also provide opportunities to expand medical services in the Methow Valley, she said.
“It’s a exceptional partnership,” Diamond said. “We’re looking at ways to partner with Confluence Health to bring more resources to the valley that we couldn’t do alone. It gives us leverage to do things we couldn’t do as an individual clinic.”
Areas of emphasis
Diamond identified four areas of health care that she hopes will be expanded in the valley through the new affiliation with Confluence Health.
“Mental health is always at the top of the list, and family planning has moved up there with the announcement of the closure of Room One’s clinic,” Diamond said. Room One recently learned the independent family planning clinic held there will close Jan. 1.
Diamond said more diabetes education is needed in the valley, and hopes that foot care for seniors can be offered “in a community setting.”
Expanded services like these, she said, may be provided in conjunction with Family Health Centers, which purchased Methow Valley Family Practice in Twisp earlier this year.
“Possibilities for collaboration between the two clinics have never been greater,” Diamond said.
With no staff changes resulting from the new affiliation with Confluence Health, patients of the Country Clinic won’t experience significant changes in the health care services they receive, Diamond said.
“The thing they are going to notice is there is a computer in every room,” she said. The clinic will now be directly linked to Confluence Health’s electronic medical records system.
“We were gone all weekend in Wenatchee — the entire staff — for two days to do computer training. It will take a while for us to be fluid. We request everyone have patience with us,” Diamond said.
Medical staff of the Country Clinic includes family medicine physicians Leesa Linck and Michael Tuggy, Phoebe Hershenow, ARNP, and Danielle Michellietti, PA-C.
Diamond said the clinic has more than 10,000 charts for patients served since it opened 15 years ago.
Confluence Health is an affiliation created in 2013 between Central Washington Hospital and Wenatchee Valley Medical Center.
“The mission of Confluence Health is to improve our patients’ health by providing safe, high-quality care in a compassionate and cost effective manner,” said Dr. Peter Rutherford, chief executive officer of Confluence Health in an announcement this week.
“We have enjoyed a good partnership with Dr. Diamond for many years and know that she has a similar vision for serving patients in the Methow Valley,” Rutherford said.
In addition to its primary location in Wenatchee, Confluence Health operates clinics throughout north central Washington located in Brewster, Cashmere, Moses Lake, Omak, Oroville, Royal City, Tonasket, Waterville, and now Winthrop.
Confluence Health also has alliances or partnerships with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Virginia Mason, and the University of Washington/Harborview Medical Center.
The Country Clinic is the second independent Methow Valley health care operation to be purchased by a larger organization based outside the valley.
Family Health Centers (FHC) reached an agreement in 2014 to purchase Methow Valley Family Practice from Dr. Joe Jensen, and took over operation of the clinic in May of this year.
At the time the sale of his clinic was announced, Jensen said he faced the same dilemma as the Country Clinic — survival beyond single-practitioner ownership in a rural marketplace.
FHC, a nonprofit health care system based in Okanogan, also opened a dental clinic in Twisp in February 2015.