Westlake Medical Center in Laurie is looking to the community for support in continuing to provide service from its location at Laurie Terrace Mall.
Longtime clinic physician Dr. Kenneth Derrington has said the doctors have a full load every day, but that doesn't always translate into much money. After paying employees and other overhead expenses this past December, the two doctors were not paid for the month due to lack of funds, according to Dr. Derrington.
Caught up in the recent fiscal standoff in Congress, Medicare payments to physicians were threatened with a nearly 30 percent reduction that brought fears of possible closure to the local clinic which has more than 80 percent of patients on Medicare. Passed at the first of the year, the American Taxpayer Relief Act avoided these cuts for the time being, but the issue brought the concerns about the financial stability of Westlake Medical Center to light.
The independent primary care clinic has been struggling financially for some time.
With the clinic's ongoing financial issues, one of its two physicians — Dr. Kathleen Robbins — recently announced that she would be going to another practice in Lake Ozark beginning March 1.
As a result, the not-for-profit organization Westlake Community Medical Development Board is now taking steps to stabilize its finances and bring the clinic back from the brink.
The goal is to continue to provide high quality medical care for the community as an independent clinic, not owned or controlled by a hospital.
Since opening its doors on Oct. 2, 1992, Westlake Medical Center, overseen by a board of directors, has provided primary care services with an average of three doctors up until 2008 when it went down to two providers. Facing getting down to one physician, the organization has been struggling with how to continue to run the facility with the related decreased revenue and its current financial obligations.
The immediate goal, according to clinic officials, is to recruit a provider to replace Dr. Robbins, get that physician or nurse practitioner established, then work towards a full staff of four providers.
Just as the clinic started with a grassroots effort, the organization is again reaching out to the community to continue.
Twenty years ago, the community helped set up the clinic with the Elks lodge in Laurie coordinating the effort to provide volunteers who constructed exam rooms, installed cabinets and equipment and painted the walls and put down flooring. Now, the organization is looking for donations to help cover operations until the clinic can become self-supporting once more.
Donations and contributions can be made online at communityfoundationofthelake.com or give directly to Westlake Medical Center, P.O. Box 1519, Laurie, MO 65038.
Help is especially needed in recruiting a provider. Members of the community are asked to get involved and bring suggestions to the organization. To that end, the board is holding a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20 at the Osage Community Elks Lodge in Laurie.