With its main physician injured in a bicycle accident, the bumps in the road continue for Westlake Medical Center, but the not-for-profit primary care clinic in Laurie is still open and trying to retain more permanent full time physicians.
An avid bicyclist who rides in many charity events, Clinic Director Dr. Kenneth Derrington was attending a bicycle camp in Golden, Colo. the week of July 15 when he took a spill from his bike and suffered 10 broken ribs and a ruptured spleen, according to Westlake Medical Center Office Manager Becky LaRock.
Dr. Derrington had his spleen removed at St. Anthony's Trauma Center in Lakewood, Colo. and is recovering ahead of expectations, she said. He was scheduled to leave the hospital and come back home to the Westside July 22 to continue recuperating.
In the meantime, Craig Wymore, M.D., is filling in for Dr. Derrington part time. He will be seeing patients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Dr. Wymore is an experienced physician from Kansas City who is familiar with the Westside, according to LaRock.
The clinic staff is looking forward to working with him until Dr. Derrington returns, she said.
The other full time physician at Westlake Medical Center, Dr. Michael Henry, has announced plans to leave the practice. His last day will be July 31, 2013. He started at the clinic in March 2013 when Dr. Kathleen Robbins left the practice.
With 80-90 percent of its patients on Medicare, low reimbursement rates have caused financial hardship for the clinic. While Medicare payments to doctors have been flat over the last decade, the American Medical Association estimates that the cost of caring for patients has increased by 20 percent. Unattached to a hospital group, the small independent clinic must meet all its bills on its own.
And over time, Westlake Medical Center has struggled to maintain enough physicians to spread out expenses and boost revenues. The facility is designed for four practitioners, but has not had that number for several years.
Prospects to replace Henry, however, are looking good, according to LaRock. Negotiations are in progress, but it is too early to release details, she said.
Besides physicians, there are eight employees currently working at the community-owned independent clinic.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of the City of Laurie had a median age of 69, so the issue is not just one of financial solvency for Westlake Medical Center, but of access to healthcare for Medicare patients.
In 2011, one-third of Medicare patients looking for a new primary care physician had trouble finding one, according to the AMA.
To support the not-for-profit clinic, contributions may be sent to Community Foundation of the Ozarks, P.O. Box 8960, Springfield, MO 65801. Make checks payable to Westlake Medical Center. Donate online at www.cfozarks.org and under Fund put Westlake Medical Center. Or visit Westlake Medical Center in the Laurie Terrace Mall to donate.