Northern Oswego County Health Services assumes Oswego County primary health care centers

PULASKI, NY – Northern Oswego County Health Services, Inc., the operator of the Pulaski Health Center, has become the largest provider of primary healthcare services in Oswego County.

In early 2009, officials from NOCHSI, Oswego Health and Oswego County Opportunities undertook an initiative labeled “Preserving the Oswego County Primary Care Safety Net.”

The initiative began collaboration between the three organizations.

The impetus for the initiative was to address the acute shortage of health care options with the closing of the Central Square Health Center.

Further research by the providers demonstrated that the county as a whole suffered from a lack of quality primary care choices.

One objective of the collaboration became improved access to high quality primary and preventative care in a cost effective manner for all county residents.

The initiative sought to reinforce the financial viability of two primary care practices of Oswego County’s largest human services organization, OCO, and three primary care practices of the county’s sole hospital, OH.

A key provision created a relationship among the five primary care centers allowing them to operate under NOCHSI’s federal scope of project.

The two former OCO practices are located in Fulton and Oswego, and the three former OH primary care practices are located in the towns of Mexico, Parish and Phoenix.

Designated as a federally qualified health center NOCHSI is entitled to enhanced reimbursement rates.

Federally qualified health centers are patient-centered health care centers located in medically underserved areas that provide high quality, cost effective primary services to anybody seeking care.

Services rendered on a sliding fee scale with discounts based on patient family size and income in accordance with federal poverty guidelines.

Open to all, regardless of their ability to pay.

It offers a comprehensive set of services  such as: Primary care services for all age groups, preventative health services, dental services, mental health and substance abuse services, transportation services necessary for adequate patient care and hospital and specialty care.

By combining the practices the increased size of the organization will make operations more efficient and cost effective.

It will maximize opportunities to recruit new physicians and improve access to quality care.

Added benefits of the consolidation are the strengthening of primary care services in Oswego County and preservation of jobs.

Enhanced prescription pricing, government paid malpractice coverage and sliding-fee-scale discounted services.

Oswego County is a large, mostly rural county with 68 percent of the population living in and around the cities of Oswego and Fulton.

The rest of the population lives in small hamlets and villages and in very sparsely populated areas.

Barriers to residents seeking preventative and primary healthcare include:
A poor economic environment with high unemployment
14 percent of residents living below the poverty level
Industry closures and loss of good paying jobs
The demise of small businesses and farming
An overall downturn in the local economy
An increasing number of uninsured and underinsured
Lack of rural public transportation, especially impacting the elderly and the young
A shortage of physicians

In response to these issues, the leadership of NOCHSI, OCO and OH presented the initiative to the New York State Department of Health.

The NYSDOH responded with $8.34 million in Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers (HEAL-NY) funding.

The funding targeted $5 million for the re-establishment of urgent care and ancillary services in Central Square and $3.34 million for physical and IT upgrades to the five OCO and OH practices. NOCHSI also secured $400,000 in funding from the New York Health Foundation to subsidize the due diligence costs for the Initiative.

In 2012, NOCHSI was awarded $650,000 in annual New Access Point funding to support the operational start-up of the five practices under NOCHSI.

This funding was crucial to mitigating any prospective operating losses that NOCHSI may have incurred with the addition of the five practices.

In January 2013, NOCHSI finalized the effort to integrate the five health centers.

The integration provides greater access to healthcare for all county residents.

The centers are now solely operated by NOCHSI. In general, all the assumed sites will now offer the same primary and preventive health care services as the Pulaski Health Center.

According to Daniel T. Dey, CEO of NOCHSI, “The transition has already been quite successful, particularly in the sense that the patient/provider relationship has not been interrupted. Patients can continue to see their current primary care provider at the same location. Under the transition, the practices will be able to upgrade their facilities, technology and recruitment efforts. These elements will lead to longer term stability for the entire Oswego County health care systems. NOCHSI is grateful to the advocacy efforts of Assemblyman Barclay and Senator Ritchie in facilitating the initiative and to the NYS Department of Health, Health Resources and Services Administration and NYS Health Foundation in their funding support for this initiative.”

Contact a local health center for information on hours and services.

Affected Clinics Operated as FQHC by NOCHSI as of January, 2013:

OCO Oswego Health Center, 10 George St., 342-0880
OCO Fulton Health Center, 522 S. Fourth St., 598-4790
Oswego Health Mexico Health Services Center, 5856 Scenic Ave., 963-4133
Oswego Health Parish Health Services Center, 10 Carlton Drive, 625-4388
Oswego Health Phoenix Health Services Center, 7 Bridge St., 695-4700
NOCHSI, Pulaski Health Center,61 Delano St., 298-6564