They ride the circuit to meet medical needs

<I>The Eagle/Marissa Williams</I><BR>Physician assistant Kristina Uehlin, left, and volunteer Dianna Morrow provide rural health care at weekly clinics in Monument and Long Creek.

GRANT COUNTY - Health care is available closer to home in two rural communities of Grant County.

The Strawberry Wilderness Community Clinic at Blue Mountain Hospital is offering medical services on Mondays in Monument and Long Creek. Hours are 8:45-11:15 a.m. at the Monument Senior Center and 1:15-3:45 p.m. at Long Creek Community Hall.

Kristina Uehlin, physician assistant with SWCC, runs the clinics, which opened Feb. 8.

Volunteer Dianna Morrow checks in patients and handles paperwork, among other duties to assist Uehlin.

They are prepared to handle a variety of needs such as urgent care issues, sports and commercial driving physicals, blood work orders and other tests.

Uehlin said the service helps people with transportation or work issues, who would otherwise have to travel many miles into John Day for minor medical needs.

"Everyone's been so appreciative," she said. "We've had a really good response."

Uehlin, who joined SWCC in 2007, said the original intent was for her to start running clinics in outlying areas as part of BMH's rural health contract. Those plans were put on hold when two doctors left the area and Uehlin was needed to help out at SWCC. The clinic has since bolstered its staffing.

Uehlin continues to work at SWCC Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The clinic is also open on Fridays.

The clinic hopes to add on two more doctors in August, and possibly increase hours at the existing rural sites and/or start up one in Dayville, according to Uehlin.

"We want to see what the need is first," she said.

Uehlin, who enjoys outdoor activities, moved to Grant County from the Payette, Idaho, area.

She said she never even knew where John Day was, but when when she visited to pursue the job at SWCC, she thought she was "in heaven" upon her first view of the John Day Valley.

Uehlin added, "This is one of the more rewarding things I've done as a physician assistant."

No appointments are necessary at the outreach clinics, although patients are welcome to schedule one for longer procedures. For more information, contact Strawberry Wilderness Community Clinic at 541-575-0404.

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