DRAIN — Umpqua Community Health Center has opened its new North County Health Clinic that leaders hope will give residents in the area some much-needed access to health care.

The new facility at 316 West A Avenue, Drain, officially opened for business on Friday and is already booked with appointments through August.

Evelyn Pruse, the North Douglas community health advocate for the Children’s Institute, was happy to see her efforts in advocating for the clinic finally pay off. Pruse said the group did surveys in the communities of Elkton, Yoncalla and Drain, to measure what community members prioritized as health care needs. The results showed the No. 1 issue was access to health care.

“Folks who live here have to go to Roseburg or Cottage Grove or even Eugene to get health care and when you live rurally, sometimes that’s a long days journey to get what you need for your children,” Pruse said.

A lot of pieces, Pruse said, had to come together for the clinic to become a reality.

“The planets aligned, we were doing all this work behind the scenes to get a feel for what we need, the building opened up, and Umpqua Community Health was willing to come up here and open this clinic and bring us what we need,” Pruse said.

“The county gave us a long-term lease for zero dollars, and that’s really what started the ball rolling,” said KC Bolton, CEO of Umpqua Community Health Center. “Lots of folks came together and there weren’t really that many roadblocks.”

The clinic officially opened Friday for patient visits and will be open every Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but officials say they could expand the hours and number of days the clinic is open in the future.

Services offered at the clinic include primary care for children and adults, including immunizations, chronic care management, wellness exams and sports physicals.

The clinic is starting with one provider, Dr. Kody Seeley, a primary care physician, who works at the UCHC clinic in Sutherlin for three days a week, and will be working at the clinic in Drain on Fridays. Seeley has always wanted to work in rural health care ever since he did his residency training in a rural community.

“My mission is to really help establish good quality and rural family medicine in an under-served population,” Seeley said.

Seeley said many of the patients that he will see in the rural setting have not been to see a doctor for several years.

“I see where people haven’t been to a doctor in more than 5 or 10 years and this is their first experience coming back into the medical community and I want to make it as comfortable a process as possible,” Seeley said.

UCHC officials say it’s a monumental step to bolster healthcare resources in an area that the Oregon Office of Rural Health has deemed as having the greatest unmet needs in the entire state.

Bolton said the priorities and focuses of UCHC include improving access to healthcare, particularly in areas like North Douglas County where the need is so great.

“We’re extremely excited to begin offering comprehensive clinic services to our neighbors in North County who for far too long have been forced to endure long commutes to address their basic health care needs,” Bolton said.

UCHC officials say they plan to add additional services as staffing allows and the demand for the services grows.

Bolton said Douglas County, which owns the building, gave UCHC a long term no-cost lease to operate the clinic, and a grant from Umpqua Health Alliance partially funded the renovation project.

Kim Gandy, operations program manager with UCHC said she expects that with the interest that’s been generated, that it won’t be long before office hours are expanded at the clinic.

“As soon as people start utilizing the clinic, we’re going to grow,” Gandy said. “Ultimately we’d like to be open five days a week.”

“This is a big thing,” Pruse said.

Appointments may be made at the North County Health Center clinic by calling (541) 459-3788.

Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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