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Governor tours new Umpqua Health building

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown got a firsthand look at the 25,000-square-foot Umpqua Health Newton Creek medical facility Wednesday morning.

Brown was in Roseburg to meet with several health care providers and the Community Advisory Council for Umpqua Health Alliance, Douglas County’s only coordinated-care organization.

She got a tour of the construction project at the Newton Creek facility that Umpqua Health officials said will have fully integrated physical, behavioral and urgent care services in a single location.

Brown said she was impressed with what she saw.

“It is visionary. The building was designed to enhance and support patient privacy and ensure patient and staff safety, as well as being completely ADA accessible,” she said.

Brown said the project will improve patient health because of the goals to provide primary centered patient care plus comprehensive and collaborative care. She said Umpqua Health Alliance is a big part of that.

“The coordinated care organization is a very creative, collaborative, locally driven model that’s been probably one of the most effective models in the country in driving health care costs down, and at the same time improving patient care,” Brown said. “And the primary goal is to improve patient care.”

The governor also visited with CHI Mercy Medical Center officials about the new residency program, where they will train doctors and then put together incentive to try to keep them in the community.

“We’re doing some very creative things — we’ve got to grow our own, take advantage of the bright young minds that are here, and make sure that they have access to hands-on learning and career and technical education,” Brown said.

She emphasized focusing on challenges of recruiting and retaining health care providers in rural Oregon, and the financial challenges in providing health care through the Oregon Health Plan.

Umpqua Health Newton Creek plans to have 15 providers when the center opens , offering care in pediatrics, primary care and behavioral health. The medical facility, located on Northeast Stephens Street next to the Douglas County Farmers’ Co-op, is expected to open by the end of this year.

Umpqua Health is the parent company of Umpqua Health Alliance, which serves about 26,000 Douglas County residents on the Oregon Health Plan, and close to 10,000 more people with Medicare, private insurance or Exchange coverage.

Lightning storm passes Miles Fire, no new flames

The dense forest along Jackson Creek Road outside of Tiller looked misty Wednesday morning. Up above, smoke clouded the sky and the trees became obscured, reduced to outlines in the gray distance.

On Wednesday, firefighters were preparing for dry lighting that was expected to strike in the area after 2 p.m.

Sarah Gracey, an information officer for the Miles Fire, said Wednesday’s thunderstorms ended up closer to Crater Lake than to the fires, and no new flames sparked.

She said there’s a slight chance of thunderstorms Thursday, but not much.

Gracey said fire managers are now considering having firefighters perform burnouts on interior “islands” within the fire, or areas of unburned fuels.

“At some point they’re likely to burn on their own, and they could throw sparks and create spot fires,” Gracey said.

Keith Kelley, a division supervisor for the Miles Fire, said the smoke can make fires more difficult to fight.

While the inversions that descend on the valley floor and leave smoke can often lower fire activity, they also decrease visibility for air operations.

“The conditions are what, to me, is moderating this fire behavior. We can put all the control line in that we want to,” Kelley said.

He said resources have been tough to get in terms of task force leaders.

Denny McCarthy, an information officer for the fire, echoed the same sentiment.

McCarthy said when an information officer becomes available they often get scooped up quick. There are only a few hundred nationwide, so McCarthy said they run through the list fast when each officer only does a two-week detail.

As of Wednesday, containment on the more-than-45,000-acre Miles Fire is at 25 percent, however, most of the blaze has control lines set around it.

McCarthy said because the control lines haven’t been tested, the line isn’t considered part of the containment until it has actually held fire.

He said the containment is calculated by the amount of lines that have been burned out, cooled and mopped up, divided by the total linear distance of the fire line.

In addition to control lines, the fire also has alternative lines behind it.

Fire managers prepare with both a contingency and emergency plan, as well.

Part of that planning included wrapping historic buildings in fire protective material and setting up sprinklers in the event that a fire starts moving in the direction of the structure.

A local forest crew wrapped the Whisky Camp Guard Station, which was built in the 1940s as a summer home for firefighters, who would maintain trails and patrol for fires.

While the building isn’t under an immediate risk, crews took precautions just in case.

McCarthy said residents can also prepare their homes for wildland fires. The National Fire Protective Association has a program called Firewise that teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire.

More information can be found at the NFPA website.

On Thursday, a temporary campfire ban went into effect across the Umpqua National Forest because of dry conditions and active fires.

No new decisions Wednesday about Roseburg schools superintendent

After meeting in closed session for about two hours Wednesday, the Roseburg Public Schools Board of Directors opened its doors for a public session only to announce to the handful of people who trickled in that there would be no new decisions made.

The closed executive session called for the board to consult with the district’s lawyer regarding potential litigation.

The board had scheduled a public meeting to follow the closed session.

“We’re scheduled for a public meeting regarding the terms of a separation agreement with the former superintendent. At this time, there is no additional discussion regarding that, and so the meeting is adjourned,” board Chairman Joseph Garcia said.

The board last week voted to put Superintendent Gerry Washburn on administrative leave. The move was passed on a 4 to 3 vote. The board’s attorney was also authorized last week to negotiate a separation agreement, including severance pay, if Washburn released the board from any legal claims.

There was no discussion in last week’s open session about the decision. The board met in executive sessions Feb. 21, March 14 and March 22 to discuss the superintendent’s performance, but never completed an evaluation.

Washburn has been superintendent of the Roseburg School District since July 2015. His contract was scheduled to end June 2019.

Roseburg transfer station will no longer accept corrugated cardboard recyclables

The Roseburg transfer station will no longer accept corrugated cardboard for recycling.

The transfer station is operated by the Douglas County government, which cites an excessive amount of contaminants in the cardboard being turned in by county residents as the reason for the suspension.

According to a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, county workers have been spending between four and six hours per day sorting and removing soiled or wet cardboard, food, diapers, tobacco products, mail and other debris from the cardboard bin.

“Douglas County does not have a sorting facility or a budget for the increased workload required to clean up the cardboard in order for it to be accepted by our recycling vendor. Therefore, they are forced to suspend cardboard recycling until a cleaner and more cost-effective solution can be found,” the press release said.

Corrugated cardboard had been one of a small number of recyclable types to survive an overall suspension of most recycling at county transfer stations. Only the Roseburg station had been accepting the cardboard.

Governments across the West Coast have suspended many recycling efforts due in part to China’s refusal to continue accepting often-contaminated recyclables.

The Douglas County Landfill and its transfer stations continue to accept tin, aluminum, oil, batteries and yard and wood debris for recycling. Some waste disposal companies are accepting additional recyclable items.

MSullivan / MICHAEL SULLIVAN/News-Review file PHOTO  

A worker disposes of cardboard boxes at a disposal and recycle area in downtown Roseburg in August 2017.