On the grow: Clinic expanding hours, recruiting medical personnel

Argen Duncan

Leaders at the Roosevelt General Hospital Physicians Clinic are working toward increased hours.

Earlier this year, the clinic expanded its hours to include five full days instead of four days and a half day on Friday.

“The community definitely needs the clinic five days a week,” said hospital CEO Larry Leaming.

Clinic Administrator Tina Hill said the added Friday hours are going well. Clinic staff members are more able to get patients in to see physicians, and every provider’s practice is growing, she said.

In February, Hill said, 100 new patients came to the clinic.

“What our goal is, is to help see the non-emergent patients in our community after hours,” she said.

With the growth of the facility, Hill said, planners are looking into remodeling and adding exam rooms. They’re looking at blueprints, but haven’t made a decision on a time frame.

Leaming said hospital leaders are working on a business plan to see what further expansion of hours the clinic could offer. Hours at night, in the morning and on the weekends are on the table, but no decision has been made.

RGH must be able to afford extra hours and provide quality care during that time, Leaming said.

“We want to make sure we’re ready, we’re staffed, we have equipment and everything goes well from day one,” he said.

Leaming hopes to present a plan to the hospital board at its April meeting and have the clinic open longer in May.

Now, Leaming said, the only health care option in Roosevelt County after 5 p.m. is the emergency room. If people go there for minor problems, their insurance may not pay the bill or they may have a large co-pay or deductible.

“So it has a huge impact not only on us but on people,” Leaming said.

Also, because the emergency room operates on a triage system, patients with minor issues may have to wait for some time.

As another issue, Leaming said he’s heard feedback that people have a hard time getting an appointment or getting seen as a walk-in at the clinic. He said the facility doesn’t have enough providers and hasn’t since the organization started.

“We’re recruiting physicians like crazy,” Leaming said.

The clinic has nine doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Two doctors are planning to leave, and two providers are scheduled to arrive this summer, Leaming said.

Based on the Roosevelt County population, he said, the clinic needs five or six more providers.

To recruit, Leaming works with state and national recruiting firms, posts openings online and helps skilled foreign providers with visas to work in the country and move toward citizenship. The hospital also has a designation from the National Health Service Corps, which repays school loans for doctors working in under-served areas, such as Roosevelt County.

“You don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” Leaming said.

Leaming looks for health care providers who have strong ties to the community or can develop them, and therefore stay at the hospital.

Candidates go through phone interviews and site visits. Leaming said he would pay moving expenses or offer a signing bonus for providers he wanted to hire.

“But it takes a provider that looks at the community, looks at New Mexico, looks at our practice, and says, ‘Yeah, I want to be part of that,’” he said.