OHSU and an Eastern Oregon Town Build a Unique Health Center

03/27/00    Union, Ore.

OHSU's School of Nursing and Union Open New Expanded Health Center


The Union Family Health Clinic is celebrating the grand opening of its new expanded clinic. Activities include special guest presentations and tours of the new facility.


Thursday, March 30, 4 - 6 p.m.


142 East Dearborn, Union, Ore.

A dream for the community of Union County is finally a reality. Thanks to a partnership between Oregon Health Sciences University's School of Nursing, the Cove - Union - Powder Medical Association and the city of Union, the community has a new health center building. The entire community helped raise support and build the new center from the ground up. The Union Family Health Center will open the doors on its brand new building during a special grand opening celebration on Thursday, March 30, from 4 to 6 p.m., with a special dedication ceremony at 5:15 p.m. Special guests at the event include OHSU President Peter Kohler, Sen. David Nelson (R-Pendleton) and his wife Alice, and Rep. Mark Simmons (R-Elgin). Tours of the new 4,000-square-foot clinic will be offered.

The new clinic is almost four times larger than the temporary clinic that OHSU's School of Nursing opened in 1994. The old facility had only two exam rooms with an insufficient, out- of-date water system, and very little office or storage space. But even with the small space in the old building, the medical staff were able to provide quality patient care to an average of 15 patients a day. They hope to increase that number to 25 in the new clinic. The old facility was located in a 1930s U.S. Forest Service building, which couldn't be expanded or modified because it was designated a historical building.

The Union Family Health Center provides health care to more than 3,500 Union County residents from towns such as Union, North Powder and Cove. Its services go beyond your typical clinic. In addition to health care, nurse practitioners also make home visits, work with the Health Network for Rural Schools in all five of Union County's rural school districts, and offer free community education and wellness programs, ranging from storytelling and nutrition to blood pressure checks. This clinic is a vital part of OHSU's community service mission to provide services throughout the state.

The Cove - Union - Powder Medical Association and OHSU's School of Nursing at Eastern Oregon University started a campaign to build a new health center six years ago. Since then, the community has raised more than $700,000 through grants and donations, including land for the new building donated by the Union School District.

"This has been a labor of love for everyone involved. We've all painted or pounded nails on this new clinic. So it's extremely exciting to see it becoming a reality," said Jeanne Bowden, Ph.D., R.N., associate dean for OHSU's School of Nursing at the Eastern Oregon University campus.

"Rural Oregon really needed this. Dedication to our community by our community is what got it done," said Russ Snodgrass, former Union School District superintendent and chairman of the Cove - Union - Powder Medical Association.

Snodgrass said before OHSU's School of Nursing started the clinic, residents would have to travel to La Grande to receive medical care. Traveling out of town is inconvenient for many residents due to hazardous weather conditions in the winter, and with 77 percent of the population being low-income, a lack of transportation also can be an issue. Not to mention that Union County is home to one of the highest concentrations of elderly residents in Oregon. Snodgrass said this clinic has been a lifesaver for this population.

The clinic is staffed by OHSU nurse practitioners and nursing students, a physician consultant and support staff. The former clinic only had room for five staff members. OHSU is hoping the new space will allow them to recruit a dentist or optometrist.

For OHSU's School of Nursing, it offers a valuable, hands-on training site for nurses and nurse practitioners specializing in the challenges of rural health care.

"The Union Clinic has provided invaluable support for the education of nurse practitioners in Eastern Oregon. These nurses often are the only health care providers available to communities. The new clinic will assure a continued opportunity to provide care, educate the next generation of nurses, and demonstrate our commitment to the community," said Kathleen Potempa, D.N.Sc., R.N., F.A.A..N., dean of OHSU's School of Nursing.

The Cove - Union - Powder Medical Association hopes this new clinic will be one of many new projects to help revitalize the economy and services available to their community.