SPOKANE – Following the recommendations of a panel comprised of academic and community experts, nurse practitioners at WSU will develop a clinical practice contract with one or more existing clinics in Spokane. This action will allow the nurse practitioners to continue to offer services within the community, but without the administrative responsibilities of operating a clinic.

Subsequently, the People’s Clinic will stop taking new patients at the end of February and will phase out its operation by May 15, 2008.

“A key recommendation of the committee was that the nurse practitioners should continue their legacy of clinical service in the Spokane community rather than administratively manage a clinic,” said Patricia Butterfield, dean of the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing. “Based on this recommendation, we are exploring affiliation agreements with federally qualified community health centers in Eastern Washington. We will announce the details of such partnerships as soon as they become available.”

The People’s Clinic will continue to take new patients on an emergency basis through February 29. Nurse practitioners at the clinic will assist existing patients in transferring to new health care providers by May 15. Letters will be sent to all People’s Clinic patients explaining their health care provider options.

Students attending WSU will continue to receive contracted health care services at the People’s Clinic through May, 2008; Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College students will continue to receive contracted health care services through June, 2008. New student health contracts will be renegotiated for fall 2008.

“Both care continuity and patient choice are important to us,” noted Margaret Bruya, director of the People’s Clinic. “We have been providing care for over nine years and want to give our existing patients the option of continuing to work with us if they choose. We also want to provide them with information about other clinics so that they can pursue the care options that are most comfortable to them.”

“All ideas and recommendations were considered thoroughly before making our recommendations to the College,” said Eleanor Andersen, a member of the blue-ribbon panel and People’s Clinic board member. “Our number one priority was to make sure that patients were being taken care of. This was kept at the forefront of all the panel’s discussions. As a panel, we will work to secure partnerships to maintain the same quality of health care that is currently provided to patients at the People’s Clinic.”

The People’s Clinic currently employs six part- and full-time employees who will work with the university’s human resources department to explore employment alternatives.

The possible closure of the clinic was first announced in June, 2007, after the College of Nursing was informed that federal funding for the program, which totaled approximately $400,000 each year, would not be renewed effective June 30. WSU President Elson S. Floyd later announced that the university would provide bridge funding to ensure continued health care for People’s Clinic patients as they made the transition to other health care providers.

“The People’s Clinic has performed an important service for many people in Spokane who need access to health care,” said Floyd. “It was important for us to do everything possible to see that the patients’ interests were protected and that transition plans were put into place this past year. I’m pleased to hear that the panel has come to a recommendation that will allow the clinic’s nurse practitioners to serve patients and capitalize on Spokane’s strengths in the health care sector.”

The original People’s Clinic, located in downtown Spokane, opened in 1998 and was designed to improve access to health care and mental health services in the Spokane community for underinsured and low-income families. In addition, the Clinic provided primary health care education to WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing students, and was utilized to develop a community partnership model of primary health care.

The WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing continues to provide and promote partnerships with the health care community in Spokane. Its students work, study at, and contribute to resources at several health outreach programs in Spokane. For further information on People’s Clinic services, call 509-324-7500 or go to http://nursing.wsu.edu/commpart/