Hadlock Medical Center sold

By Allison Arthur of the Leader
Posted 4/14/15

The Port Hadlock Medical Clinic, the only private medical clinic in rural Jefferson County, is off life support.

Dr. Asif Malik, a psychiatrist based in Spokane, has purchased the Port Hadlock …

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Hadlock Medical Center sold

Posted

The Port Hadlock Medical Clinic, the only private medical clinic in rural Jefferson County, is off life support.

Dr. Asif Malik, a psychiatrist based in Spokane, has purchased the Port Hadlock Medical Center in Kively Center from Peg Carlyle-Carlson, who had been ready to shut the business.

“I am very relieved,” Carlyle-Carlson said Monday. “Closing was an option I couldn't stomach.”

Claire Lah, who owns Practice Management Assistance, LLC, a billing service in Port Townsend, has invested in the business as well, and will serve as chief operating officer. She lives in Quilcene.

It was Lah, who does work for Malik's clinic in Silverdale, Central Kitsap Urgent Care, who connected Carlyle-Carlson with Malik. Both the Hadlock and Silverdale clinics are operated by Cascade Health Services, PLLC, which Malik owns.

“She said this is a clinic that has been in the community for a very long time,” Malik said Tuesday morning from Spokane. He said his passion is in behavioral health, that he focuses on medication management, is interested in telemedicine and believes small community clinics are important and can offer a safety net for patients that large corporate providers can't offer well.

“When I spoke to Claire she said there was a large active database of patients,” Malik said.

Carlyle-Carlson said several weeks ago she had a patient caseload of some 3,000 between Jefferson, Clallam and Kitsap counties. She said her problem keeping the Hadlock clinic open isn't that she didn't have patients, but that she couldn't afford to attract any new practitioners.

Jefferson County is in what what federal officials call a “health professional shortage area.”

CHANGES BEGIN

Lah said she's already making changes to the clinic, getting it cleaned and painted, rewired in some areas, adding new computers and bringing back some practitioners, one of whom said she needed supplies.

“He has good connections and we're hoping to get a new provider fairly soon. We're hoping to expand other areas, including women's health,” Lah said.

The sale was closed April 6 and within the first week of operating the clinic Lah said, “We were able to double the patient load.”

Carlyle-Carlson acknowledged in late March that she was down to operating the clinic two days a week, and had taken down an urgent-care sign because it was false advertising. She told the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader that if she didn't sell the clinic soon, or get help, she expected it to close within a few months.

Lah said ARNP Jeanne Battenberg is filling in and ARNP Linda Pedersen also is still working so the clinic is open five days a week and fully staffed for three days.

“That's a big improvement from a week ago,” Lah said.

Artwork from local artists that had been in the main lobby and on walls in exam rooms has been taken down and returned for now, Lah said, adding she didn't want anything damaged while walls were being painted.

“And I've done everything locally as much as possible,” Lah said of using McCrorie Carpet One, Double D Electric, and Dailey Computer Consulting, Inc.

COMING HERE SOON

“I really hope we can make the clinic grow and succeed,” said Malik, 39, who came to the United States from Pakistan to study medicine. He studied in Pakistan, did his residency at the University of North Dakota and attended Yale University. He's currently working as a locum at Providence Health Care in Spokane. He also provides telemedicine services to the state of California.

Malik said he and some colleagues are interested in providing some care in Jefferson County via telemedicine.

“It's a matter of getting the patients in and the word out about people in crisis that we would be able to see,” he said.

Malik's wife is about to give birth to their third child in Spokane so he said he wants to wait for that big event before coming to visit the Port Hadlock clinic and setting up any new services.

From field work he has done, Malik said he has learned that it's hard for providers to deliver medical care if they don't understand the community needs. He believes that a small, intimate clinic like the one in Hadlock allows patients and providers to get to know each other.

As for finances, he said, “Even if it's not extremely busy we can provide services to the community.” He said the clinic in Silverdale is doing well financially in its first year of operation.

Malik said he and Carlyle-Carlson signed a nondisclosure agreement so he can't say how much he paid for the patient database and equipment. Carlyle-Carlson had been renting the space in Kivley Center.

NEED FOR PRACTITIONERS

Carlyle-Carlson bought the clinic a decade ago when it was on the brink of closure.

“They were going to close it and I couldn't see it going away,” she said of the clinic's status back then.

Like other small – and even large – healthcare facilities, Carlyle-Carlson says there is stiff competition for providers and practitioners. She estimated it would have cost her $10,000 to bring a new practitioner.

“The main issue is I don't have the extra funds to attract a new practitioner. I just don't have the big bucks. The big facilities do, but they are having trouble, too,” she said in March.

One of her practitioners attended a seminar not long ago and came back and told her that recruiters were “throwing cards at everybody saying 'I need a practitioner.'"

Carlyle-Carlson said one of her practitioners retired four times and didn't want to return. By the end of March, she had one practitioner who was working two days a week.

When she started a decade ago, she had four practitioners and at one time had a doctor full-time.

“I bought this to serve the community. I jokingly say that my husband and I knew we wouldn't become millionaires, but 'thousandaires' would be nice,” she said before selling the clinic to Malik.

NO SHORTAGE

While there is a shortage of providers, Carlyle-Carlson said there is no shortage of people seeking healthcare these days.

“We're turning people away every day, even when we have a practitioner. It's criminal what's happening, not just here, but everywhere,” she said of people not having access to care.

“We're getting a lot of 20-year-olds," she noted.

Under Carlyle-Carlson, the clinic took Medicare and Medicaid, but also gave a 30-percent discount for cash for those without insurance, she said.

HOPE TO GROW

In 2007, Carlyle-Carlson was looking to the future and looking to grow and build a new clinic. She and her contractor husband, Steve, who used to build custom homes, brought property across the highway, hoping to construct a 4,000-square-foot, two-story building with parking. They estimated the cost of that clinic to be about $750,000 and she had her eyes on opening it in 2009.

“It's permitted for a nice building and we could lay ground tomorrow, but the economy went poo poo and no more loans,” she said.

OTHER CONNECTIONS

When it became apparent she had more patients than practitioners, Carlyle-Carlson said she reached out to larger healthcare facilities in Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap, but she said there “was no interest at this time” in any of the larger facilities offering services in Port Hadlock.

While the Hadlock clinic has now been sold to Malik, Jefferson Healthcare is moving forward with a new 3,500-square foot clinic down the road in Port Ludlow. The new facility is to be built this summer by Port Ludlow Associates, then leased back to Jefferson Healthcare.

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