NEW NEIGHBORHOOD-ORIENTED URGENT CARE CLINIC
Anchorage’s most diverse neighborhood is preparing for the opening of its third primary care clinic when Mountain View Urgent Care opens on August 1st of this year.
“It’s extremely important,” said Jasmin Smith, president of the Mountain View Community Council, “There’s a lot of our residents who aren’t drivers, so not having to go out of the neighborhood will be huge.”
The building, located on Mountain View Drive, formerly housed the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center and right next to the Alaska Regional Community Clinic, which now sits abandoned after it closed due to unprofitability. Smith, who was a patient at the Regional Clinic, said that she hopes that the new clinic can succeed where others failed.
“Even though the last facility was important, it didn’t fail because there wasn’t a need--it was because there wasn’t enough people on staff to accommodate the needs of the people,” said Smith.
Officially, Alaska Regional claimed their reason for closing the clinic was “shortfalls in the planned operational structure and financial losses far exceeding original projections,” as quoted by KTUU last year.
Along with himself and another doctor, Van Ravenswaay says Mountain View Urgent Care will have seven medical assistants on staff, as well as other support staff. The clinic will staff two full-time Spanish-speaking translators and will have other language services available via phone translation. The latest Census data showed that nearly 10 percent of Mountain View’s residents claim Hispanic descent.
So far, Smith has said that she is impressed with the clinic’s willingness to engage when they emailed her and the other board members before one of the board meetings. “They sounded very responsive,” she said, “I think they will be a great partner of the Council.”
Opening the clinic has been a years-long dream for Dr. Van Ravenswaay, who got his start in healthcare working as a Health Coordinator for the Bristol Bay Native Association out of Dillingham. “I didn’t know anything about health care then,” he said, “but I guess that that job is what got me started in the healthcare field.”
After getting and associate degree at the Dillingham campus at UAF, he eventually enrolled in medical school through UAA’s WWAMI program. While still a student he heard about the closure of the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center’s clinic and went to check it out the vacant building. “I went in there with a real estate agent and I remember even back then I told my father-in-law that this is where I’m gonna have my clinic,” he recalled, “I had heard also that at some point Alaska Regional opened their clinic [in that same building], so I thought, ‘That’s the end of that dream’ but they shut down within a few months.” At that point Dr. Van Ravenswaay was finishing his residency and signed the lease on the building as soon as he could.
Mountain View, a neighborhood of about 7,000 and one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country according to UAA demographers, has about one in four people living below the federally defined poverty level. Since the closure of Alaska Regional’s clinic, however, Mountain View has been without a primary care facility that accepts patients on Medicaid.
Dr. Van Ravenswaay said that serving the community was one of his primary goals for the clinic. “In Alaska in particular our costs throughout the whole health system are exceedingly high,” he said, “It is not just with specialists, but includes all kinds of medical care, and is gonna eventually make it to where we can’t afford it. I’m interested in reducing costs and providing good quality care to low income people on Medicaid or even people that have insurance but have high deductible.”
Accordingly, his new clinic will provide sliding scale pricing, in which residents are billed based on their ability to pay for services, and will strive to provide clear, upfront prices. “Our goal is no surprises as far as costs go,” Dr. Van Ravenswaay said.