Kaiser to close primary care unit at Vancouver Medical Office

Department staff will be reassigned to other county sites

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter



Kaiser Permanente Northwest will close the primary care unit at its Vancouver Medical Office at 2211 E. Mill Plain Boulevard, dispersing staff to its other medical offices in Clark County.

A decline in the use of the office by patients, coupled with a decrease in staffing levels there led Kaiser to its decision, said Dr. Tony Daniels, a family practitioner and the primary care service area director for Clark County.

“Our staffing levels had gone down over the last two years by retirements and other actions we didn’t have control over,” Daniels said. “Our population base for the Vancouver primary care office made it increasingly difficult to have the level of service and cross coverage in primary care that we want for all of our clinics.”

Daniels said the closure and staff moves will occur by the end of April.

Five members of the Vancouver Medical Office’s primary care operation, including internists and a pediatrician, will move to Kaiser’s other Clark County sites, in Cascade Park, Orchards and Salmon Creek.

The move will affect about 10,000 primary care patients who will have to travel about seven more miles to see their doctor at a new location.

“We’re hoping most people who have worked with a primary care provider (at the Vancouver Medical Office) will continue to work with that provider but at a different location,” Daniels said.

Where, exactly, the primary care staff at the Vancouver Medical Office will be assigned “hasn’t been fully worked out,” Daniels said. Kaiser hopes to decide by the end of next week.

Daniels said he anticipates specialty care services, such as general surgery, the pharmacy, laboratory and X-ray services, as well as nurses, will remain at the Vancouver Medical Office.

Much of the strategy behind closing the office’s primary care unit “has to do with trying to improve our specialty care services in Clark County,” Daniels said. He said it also boils down to a “redistribution of our resources to best serve our patients.”

Daniels added: “It’s part of a continuous assessment of our membership needs and doing the best we can to meet those needs.”

The Vancouver Medical Office, a 40,447-square-foot facility that opened in 1962, is the first clinic established by Kaiser in the Portland-Vancouver area.

An estimated 124,000 people in Clark and Cowlitz counties receive their health insurance through Kaiser, a nonprofit health care consortium.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com .