Clinics in Bonanza, Merrill face possible closure

Merrill, Ore. – New regulations could force closure of two clinics that serve patients in southern Klamath county.

Family Nurse Practitioner Michael Sheets operates clinics in Merrill, and Bonanza.  “9,000 patients a year is what we average – we also do 2,000 flu shots in this county.”

‘Michael’s the best.”  Says patient Greg Matthews.  “He’s been my practitioner for 20 years now, and I’m still alive.”

But, new regulations from the Oregon Health Authority could force the clinic to close.

“People that can live as far as 60 miles each way, or 120 miles that are Medicaid patients will have to go to town and see students, and bypass my clinic.”  Explains Sheets.

“Everything is getting forced to go to Sky Lakes.”  Says patient Robert Goold.  “If they do that, Mike won’t be able to practice anymore.”

Matthews is concerned about the impact on the elderly, and the poor.  “For them to go from here to Klamath Falls, it puts the burden on the people who can least afford it.”

Sheets believes the solution to the problem is simple.  “Give people a choice.  Allow them to go with the CCO, or do the open medical card…let them decide, and not the bureaucrats in Salem.”

“Nothing against Sky Lakes, they’re a great hospital.”  Adds Goold.  “But I like the little people.”

Sheets hopes he can keep the clinics open.  “It runs, it works, it’s cost effective, easy access – don’t fix something that isn’t broke.”

Sheets says he faced a similar situation 8 years ago, which was resolved when former state lawmakers Doug and Gail Whitsett worked with then-Governor Kitzhaber to keep the clinic open.

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