Woodward Regional Hospital and local emergency room physician Dr. Mike Ogle announced Friday the expansion of physician services in Woodward.

Ogle, together with two other physicians, Drs. Michael Oliver and Ben Martin plan to open Urgent Care of Woodward, a primary care health clinic.

The group is the same who run Urgent Care Plus in Enid.

“All the books say not to open an urgent care clinic in a community under 40,000 people,” Ogle said. “But we feel that we have a possible draw from outlying communities of about 38,000 and so we saw the need and made a decision.”

The Woodward urgent care clinic will be housed in Dr. Frank Evans’s refurbished suite of offices on Main Street and is slated to open June 2, Ogle said.

Since 2000, Ogle has provided physician services, including his own time in the emergency room, for Woodward Regional Hospital Emergency Department through his physicians group.

Plans are to staff the facility with three rotating physicians, Drs. Michael Oliver, Mike Ogle and Ben Martin along with two full-time nurse practitioners and two physician’s assistants.

The new service is among several that were planned at the beginning of the year as part of a strategy to address a growing need for primary care physicians here, said recently named CEO, Lavah Lowe.

Since July of 2007, Dr. Helen Chiou retired after 30 years of service, Dr. Richard Brown also retired after 22 years, Drs. Jason and Kathy Ray closed their primary care practice in favor of working full time in the emergency room at Woodward Regional Hospital, Dr. John Sutton became ill and Dr. Frank Evans closed his practice and moved to Stillwater, Lowe said.

Despite the varied reasons for the loss of primary care physicians, locals who were left without a physician began in earnest to question hospital administrative staff and city officials beginning in January, about the fate of their hospital and community if the trend were to continue.

Community comment and concern over the loss of physicians has permeated coffee shop visits and newspaper editorials.

In March, about six weeks after arriving in Woodward, Lowe unfurled a tentative plan to address the quickly growing need for primary care physicians here that included the addition of the hospitalist program, an aggressive recruiting program and a pay raise for the nursing staff.

According to Lowe, the opening of Urgent Care of Woodward is just one more phase of a multiphased approach to addressing a shortage of primary care physicians, as well as the need provide better support for those primary care physician who have remained in the region.

“That is the whole idea of the urgent care clinic,” Lowe said. “We have said we need short-term solutions and long-term solutions and this is one of the short-term solutions to address the need for primary care until the primary care physicians who are coming get here.”

At present, the Woodward Regional Hospital has recruited two full time, permanent hospitalist physicians (physicians who practice only in the hospital). Drs. Ratan Nallamothu and Daniel Stanhiser are slated to be in service sometime in August.

“These physicians are purchasing homes in Woodward,” Lowe said.

These physicians, who focus only on hospitalized patients have been an asset that local primary care physicians have been requesting to allow them to better focus on primary care, Lowe said.

The hospital has also recruited two mid-level healthcare providers-Physician’s Assistants Dorian Shevitz and Julie Hulea are expected to arrive in Woodward at the end of May and to begin practicing in June. The two, supervised by two locally established physicians will serve the community providing primary care services in a clinic setting, said Woodward Regional Hospital spokesperson Brent Hubbard.

There is also one radiologist, Dr. Moradian, who is considering moving his practice to Woodward, Lowe said.

In addition, 10 more nurses since March and have hired 2 local nursing students to work as nurse techs with the intent to hire them when they graduate in 2009.

While there have been successes, there are still hurdles to cross and more efforts toward recruiting that are ongoing, Hubbard said.

At the center of other efforts is continued physician recruitment of primary care and specialty positions, and more education to the public on new services and programs as they are established, Hubbard said.

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