Longview-based Family Health Center assumed ownership of the Wahkiakum Family Practice Clinic in Cathlamet on Jan. 4. The facility's name has been changed to Family Health Wahkiakum Clinic.

The change in ownership is expected to provide the local facility with better long-term financial footing.

Family Health Center (FHC), which operates health clinics in Longview, Woodland and Ocean Park, all in Washington, acquired the facility in Cathlamet from Wahkiakum County.

The county operated the local clinic since 2005, when it took over the facility's operations from the previous owner, Peace Health. The county hoped to sell the clinic, which it has subsidized heavily since taking it over nearly five years ago.

Dian Cooper, FHC chief executive officer, said the decision to take ownership of the Wahkiakum Family Practice Clinic was a natural one, based on her organization's mission statement to provide quality health care services to patients in the area.

"Wahkiakum County is a part of our geographic area and the community had a need," she told Coast River Business Journal.

She said that because FHC is a federally qualified health care provider, it means the Wahkiakum clinic can qualify for federal funds.

Because of the federal funding, the clinic can offer medical services on a sliding scale to low-income, uninsured patients. It also accepts most commercial insurance plans, as well as Medicare, Medicaid and the Oregon Health Plan.

While the transition will have no significant alteration in the range of primary care services FHC provides, the 2,300 active patients who use the Wahkiakum clinic will see some changes,

The clinic's staff has been slightly reduced and now includes a physician assistant, two medical assistants, a Registered Nurse, and a receptionist. A physician is expected to be hired by March, Cooper said.

Patients needing x-rays will be referred to either Astoria or Longview, since no x-rays will be done at the clinic, Cooper said.

Julie Nye, RN, has been hired as clinic manager.

The clinic, which welcomes new patients, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office is closed daily from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch.

For appointment information call (360) 795-3201.