OFHC looks at last 10 years | Guest column

by DAVID SHINSTROM, MD

Orcas Family Health Center

I have been practicing medicine on Orcas for 20 years. I have a basic and passionate philosophy in my approach to medicine.

I consider access to health care to be a right, not a privilege. Everyone should be able to get health care without concerns about cost.

I was hired by the Orcas Island Medical Building Association as the first physician in the new Orcas Medical Center.

In 2003, I left the medical center. Orcas Family Health Center opened its doors in January 2004 with the mission of care for all.

We started with nothing and went through the steps creating a space, hiring staff and recruiting patients. Once the doors were open, we were the largest practice on Orcas and have significantly grown since.

Then we went through the process of becoming a nonprofit and, in the fall of 2004, became a designated federal rural health clinic.

Many years ago I was involved in federal legislation that established community health centers dedicated to this cause.

Orcas Family Health Center is a rural health center, one component of that legislation.

We do not require insurance or ability to pay. We have established a sliding fee scale based on federal poverty guidelines.

We do not use a collection agency. Since 2004 we have provided more than 54,000 services to 6,700 unique patients.

We have written off over $250,000 either as bad debt/charity care or reduced charges for sliding fee scale.

OFHC strives to be a true community health center for the island. We have a modern, state of the art X-ray for our patients. We also do X-rays for Dr. Russell and even do animal X-rays for the local veterinarians.

I am very proud of our staff – they are incomparable and dedicated to our mission. I am frequently getting comments from patients on how welcoming we are. I guesstimate we care for more than 90 percent of the residents on Orcas who are uninsured or have no financial means to afford health care. I believe in what we are doing.

OFHC is dedicated to education. Each year we have around half a dozen students spending time here. We have high school students, college students, nursing students, nurse practitioner students, physician assistant students, naturopathic students, medical students and family medicine residents.

I am on the clinical faculty of three medical schools: the University of Washington, University of Utah and A.T. Still University.

Orcas should be proud of the high esteem with which these students have regarded their rotation here.