News and Events

EPHC April Update

April 4, 2017

Eastern Plumas Health Care’s new Behavioral Health Program, funded by a grant from the state, is taking shape on its Portola campus. The innovative program will integrate behavioral health with primary care. Offering mental health treatments in a primary care setting is convenient for patients, can reduce the stigma associated with treatment for mental disorders, builds on existing provider-patient relationships, and can help improve care for the many patients who have both medical and mental disorders.
We are currently hiring a licensed social worker and a psychiatric nurse practitioner. They will join our newly hired program manager and case manager. The program will start out in a new modular building that sits right next to the Portola Medical Clinic. Soon, however, a new wing will be built onto the existing Portola Clinic to accommodate the new program. This set up will facilitate collaboration between the behavioral and medical health care programs.
There has been very little in the way of mental health support at our end of the county, and research shows that this integrated model really helps patients get better! Look for more information as we get up and running in the coming months.

We continue to offer year round, low cost lab testing at our Graeagle, Portola, and Loyalton Medical Clinics. You don’t need an appointment, but some tests require fasting. Check our website for a menus of low cost lab tests and contact information, or call 530.832.6500.
The list of specialist services continues to grow at our clinics. Dr. J. Hibler, Dermatology Specialist, recently joined the Portola Clinic staff. He grew up helping his father in his Dermatology practice in Ohio where he grew up. Along with working at our Portola Medical Clinic, Dr. Hibler is currently in practice with Dermatologist Dr. Kimenensky in her Truckee practice.
Recently, we’ve added a newly graduated dentist, Dr. Daniel Hoffman, to our staff. He has family connections to our dentist Dr. Garibotti, and the lifestyle and small town practice seems to be a great fit for him.
We also continue the search for a new primary care provider. Finding good primary care providers is proving a challenge nationwide as doctors tend to go into specialty care, which pays much more. This challenge is even more acute in rural, isolated areas like ours. We’re coming up with creative solutions in order to bring a highly qualified, compassionate new provider to our area.

EPHC Welcomes New Dermatologist, Dr. J. Hibler

February 20, 2017

Eastern Plumas Health Care’s new dermatologist, Dr. J. Hibler will be the first to tell you, it’s been a long road home. Recently Board Certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology, Dr. Hibler grew up working in his father’s dermatology office in Ohio, which confirmed his interest in the specialty.

He was drawn to dermatology because of its hands on nature, and its visual aspect. Dermatology, like radiology and surgery are “very visual specialties. I’m blessed with a knack for picking up visual patterns,” said Dr. Hibler. Rashes, for example, have surface changes. It’s a “puzzle and a challenge. Pattern recognition is what makes dermatology so fascinating.”
Dr. Hibler not only knew what he wanted to do, he also had a fairly good idea of where he wanted to do it. His father was in the Navy, so he’s seen quite a bit of the country. After living in 21 different places growing up, he said he felt like he’d already spent enough time in Southern California, and was ready to move on from the Midwest, as well.

Northern California, however, has always interested him. “I’m attracted by the mountain culture and the beauty of the area,” said Dr. Hibler, who has been hoping eventually to make this move for the past fifteen to twenty years. “There’s something unexplainable about a rural, forested area. I love it here, and so does my wife.”

Dr. Hibler lives in King’s Beach and works with Dr. Kamenentsky in Truckee. It was Dr. Kamenentsky who suggested he might contact Eastern Plumas Health Care to see if they needed a part time dermatology specialist. “I called Tom (EPHC’s Chief Executive Officer), and we hit it off right away,” said Dr. Hibler. “It’s been nothing but blue skies.”

He also feels comfortable at EPHC because he is drawn to rural people and places. Back home in Ohio, the county he was from bordered on Appalachia. “That’s rural,” said Dr. Hibler. “People are underserved. If I didn’t have that beginning, I probably wouldn’t have the interest I do in Portola or even Truckee. I have a sincere appreciation and longing to serve the people I’ve been around most of my life.”

Also, he did a telemedicine project in rural East Africa for three months. That “was an eye opening experience,” he said. “I realize that underserved is a relative term. When you go to a place in Uganda or Kenya . . . and travel time for patients to the clinic is two days—that gives you an idea of rural.”

Besides the beauty of the place, Dr. Hibler said that Northern California rural is much friendlier than the Midwestern version. “If you’re going through Sierraville or Loyalton or Satley, and you make eye contact, you’ve got to give a wave on the road—it’s how you do it. You don’t do that in Columbus, OH. Here, it’s like home automatically.”

For Dr. Hibler, home encompasses the whole of a life. “Home for me is not just the physical place, it’s the accumulation of that and friends and family—whatever passion you have…there’s that niche you have. For me, it’s my practice, that my wife is happy, we get to enjoy outside and nature—the whole package that makes home home.”

Patients can call EPHC’s Portola Clinic at 832-6600 to make an appointment with Dr. Hibler.

EPHC Opens City Warming Center to Public

With recent power outages and all-around heavy winter weather, the Jan. 26 meeting of EPHC Board of Directors put a focus on disaster preparedness and ways to serve the community.

DeeDee Clark, Nursing Administration Coordinator at EPHC, spoke about the recent weather event. “When I started at EPHC in September 2016, immediately noticed the disaster plan and saw a need to breathe fresh life into it. This was extremely helpful when heavy storms hit Portola in early January, and having a good pre-disaster meeting got everyone on the same page, between the staff at EPHC and the staff at the City.”

The Education Center on the main EPHC campus in Portola is the official City of Portola warming center in times of natural disaster, and is equipped with a generator to provide a warm, safe space with access to electricity. “There are many in our local community that rely on electricity to keep vital medical equipment, such as 02 concentrators, running. When the power and the heat go out, we are prepared to start up the generator and open the doors to the public,” Clark continued.

“During this particular weather event, the power went out on Tues., Jan. 10 and returned sometime in the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 12. Fortunately, we were prepared, and had topped off all of our tanks of fuel for the generators- this was important, so that we didn’t have to worry about running out and trying to figure out how to access more fuel in a timely manner.”

EPHC opened the doors of the warming center, providing electricity, heat, cots, blankets, and even television access to all that needed it. “We also provided meals to some individuals,” Clark commented. “The hospital kitchen staff really jumped in and helped get meals to the warming center.”

“There was initially a bit of confusion as to who should staff the center, however EPHC resolved the issue and utilized EMT staff to stay on site at the warming center. We are not providing medical care in the center, but we felt that the EMT’s have the medical training needed to react appropriately if there were to be a medical emergency,” Clark went on.

“We are working closely with City Manager Robert Meacher on the center, and I really appreciate how easy it is to reach him and work with him. Open communication is essential in times of natural disaster.”

Communication was an issue during the storm, however, as cellular phone service, landlines, and even radio contact went down between Jan. 10-12. “We have satellite phones, provided by Plumas Public Health and Sierra Public Health, and we have tested them to ensure that we will always have a mode of communication- they work! This was especially important, as EPHC staff ensured that phone calls were placed to patients that are considered ‘high priority’ during the storm to check on patient personal safety. Our goal is to keep the community secure and safe.”

The power outage also threatened approximately $28,000 of vaccines from Graeagle and Loyalton, but with good planning, staff was able to transport all of the vaccines to the Portola clinic in a timely fashion, where a generator kept the vaccines temperature-stable.

“I have to say, everything went very smoothly,” Clark said. “We got so much support from Tom Hayes, the CEO here at EPHC. He makes it really easy for us to provide the community with resources. Linda Satchwell was also a huge resource, as she handled public relations during the event.

“Staff worked together to provide a safe and secure place for those truly in need, and for things to run so smoothly, I have to emphasize that pre-planning is absolutely vital.”

The Education Center at EPHC will continue to be used as a warming center as the need arises, and Clark promised, “The moment the power goes out, we are preparing the center and kicking up the generator and the heat.” For more information regarding the EPHC Campus City Warming Center, contact Linda Satchwell at 832-6597.

Lauren Westmoreland
Staff Writer

Warming Center Closed

January 17, 2017

EPHC’s warming center, which was open during the recent storm and power outage to residents who need to warm up or to plug in essential medical equipment, is now closed. A new storm is allegedly blowing in tomorrow. If the power goes out, the warming center will be open again. Check here or on our EPHC Facebook page for more information.

Warming Center Now Open!

January 11, 2017

EPHCs warming center is now open in the Education Center on its Portola campus. If you need to warm up or need an electrical outlet for essential medical equipment, please come on up. For more information, call Linda: 530.616.0694 (if cell phones are out, call: 530.832.6500).

EPHC Power Outages

Due to widespread power outages, Portola, Loyalton and Pine Street Medical Clinics will be closed until power is restored. Graeagle Medical Clinic is open and fully operational at this time.
Please check back for updates or call 832.6500 for more information.

Loyalton SNF Residents Get To Go Home!

January 3, 2017

Eastern Plumas Health Care finally got clearance from the Office Of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) to move residents back to their homes in the Loyalton skilled nursing facility. “All of that was done Friday morning, Dec. 30 without any glitches!” said CEO Tom Hayes. Residents have been staying temporarily at the Portola skilled nursing facility on the acute wing and in the skilled nursing facility library and “Annie’s Room.” It has been cosy to say the least, but “everyone on staff has been very cooperative and really chipped in and came together during this crazy time,” said Hayes. The emergency move was required when both the permanent and back up boiler systems at the Loyalton facility failed within weeks of each other. A temporary system has been installed, which will run for approximately six months until a permanent solution can be put in place.


December 12, 2016

Yesterday we had to evacuate and transfer 17 Loyalton skilled nursing patients to our Portola facility and 4 patients were sent home to their families. The patients transferred to Portola are in the acute wing as well as the library and Anne’s room in the SNF. This action was necessary because our two boilers were failing and we were worried that we would lose necessary heating for the facility.
We are currently in the process of repairing and rebuilding one of the boilers and renting a forced air heat solution for backup in case the boilers fail again. We are hopeful this temporary solution will be complete by the end of this week at which time we can transfer all patients back. The longer term solution is to replace the two boilers at the facility but this will take at least 6 months to a year because of all the permits we need to get from the State. We are also looking at available funding to finance this project which will likely exceed $300,000.
There have been some rumors going around this morning that we intend to close the Loyalton facility because of these issues. This rumor is false. The transfer of patients to Portola and home was necessary to make sure they were protected from the potential disruption of heat.
We will keep you posted during the week to let know how we are progressing. Please don’t hesitate to contact us directly if you have any questions or hear rumors you want clarified. Thanks for your understanding.
Contact Linda Satchwell, PR Coordinator

Rural America: A Way Forward

November 18, 2016

No matter what side of the bloody election battle you were on, there was a word that news commentators invoked as the election night results came pouring in. It’s a word they hardly ever use, and it seemed as mystifying to them as the results. The word was “rural.” Rural America was angry. Rural America had found its voice and its candidate. And, most amazingly, rural America had headed to the polls en masse, and VOTED.

Rural Americans not only voted, they changed the course of a Presidential election. And, in so doing, they fooled the pundits and the pollsters. Why? Because rural America has been sidelined and maligned as isolated and inconsequential—an antiquated and dying version of America.

During Eastern Plumas Health Care’s battle with the state of California, when the state tried to take back skilled nursing facility payments for services already rendered, this hospital repeatedly invoked the word “rural.” And, when that wasn’t enough, we applied for and were granted a “frontier” designation. It was clear in talking with state officials that they didn’t take us seriously, didn’t see us as worth consideration—and when they were finally forced to notice us, it was clear they had no idea what life was like in our rural mountain communities.

In attempting to convince the new Covered California providers that expecting Medi-Cal patients to drive to Chico or Davis for essential, life saving care wasn’t feasible, we had to spell out the reasons why: “Imagine driving for 2 ½ hours – thirty to sixty miles of that in the snow over dangerous mountain roads,” we said, “roads that are sometimes impassable in winter. Now imagine doing that when you can’t afford gas, or you have bald tires on your car.” Every time, it was clear from their response that this scenario was completely foreign to insurance representatives and California legislators alike.

During the skilled nursing fight, however, we argued from our strengths as well as our vulnerabilities. We pointed out the strong, intrepid nature of our people. Throughout this three year battle, we became used to meeting and beating adversity. And, in one skirmish after another, we prevailed.

But after each success, it seemed we were forgotten again. And with each new fight, we’d start back at the beginning. We were convinced that California politicians didn’t pay attention to us or court our votes because there weren’t enough of us to matter to them.

In this nationwide election, however, there were more than enough of us to matter, apparently. Now, I’m not lauding the results of this election. But, I am saying that for the first time I can recall, rural America was a force that could not be taken for granted—in fact, it threw the political system on its head and left the intellectuals scrambling to save face.
In the end, they had to admit, repeatedly, that they’d underestimated rural America. They underestimated rural America because they didn’t understand the forces that shape it. They didn’t understand because they hadn’t needed to. Now, however, they do.

I would like to suggest, in this window of time during which the nation is actually listening, that we pull together in rural Plumas County one more time—this time to strike a positive note. Let’s share with our state and national politicians the good things we know about ourselves and the character of our people, as we did during the skilled nursing battle. We are a people who value family and friends and the generations that came before us in this valley, and on this mountain. We value the place itself, and we believe it and the way of life that comes with it are worth preserving.

At Eastern Plumas Health care, we intend to let our state and federal lawmakers know that we aim to protect our ability to provide quality health care to all community members, regardless of their status or ability to pay. We need to preserve the state and federal programs that allow us to provide the services most needed by our residents. I would encourage our schools, businesses, our county government—all who add to the viability of our rural way of life–to do the same.

Rural can mean caring, small can mean intimate, it can mean courageous and empathetic. It’s this sense of rural I’d like to invoke, and I hope it’s the way we see ourselves as the days and years wind forward. Further, it’s this version of rural that I think we should share with our lawmakers in Sacramento and on the national stage at a time when they are predisposed to listen. Let’s not lose the momentum this moment offers—rather, let’s use it to build a better, stronger, more caring community for ourselves in this rural place we call home. We’ve hit the system with a hammer—we’ve shown the fissures and forced a new way forward. In the words of musician and poet Leonard Cohen, who died less than two days after the election, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Vote YES on Prop. 52–It’s Good For Our Community!

October 13, 2016

This November, a diverse group of nearly 1,000 health care providers, businesses, taxpayer groups, labor organizations and children’s advocates from across the state are voting Yes on Proposition 52, the Medi-Cal Funding and Accountability Act.
Here’s why:
A 2009 partnership between the state and California hospitals has provided about $18 billion in federal funds to help pay for health care services for the state’s approximately 13.5 million Medi-Cal patients. The hospitals have voluntarily provided the matching amount required for these federal programs. Proposition 52 will continue this partnership, with no new cost to California taxpayers. Without Proposition 52, children, low-income families and seniors could be at risk of losing access to critical health care services. In fact, nearly one in three Plumas County residents relies on MediCal services (of approximately 18,900 residents, 5,862 are on MediCal*). In Plumas County’s three hospitals, this likely would mean that we could no longer provide certain important outpatient hospital services to MediCal patients—including lab, x-ray, and other imaging services. Even ambulance and emergency services could be affected for our MediCal patients.
California taxpayers and those with private health insurance also will benefit from Proposition 52. Another possible avenue for funding if Proposition 52 fails is for taxpayers to pay higher taxes, and/or for those with commercial insurance coverage to have their premiums increased.
Further, this measure ensures the funds are spent on Medi-Cal, as intended. Proposition 52 prevents the Legislature from diverting these funds and using them for any other purposes. There is strict oversight at both the state and federal levels on how these funds can be spent.
Locally, these matching funds are also paying for new projects at all three of our county’s hospitals—projects meant to provide services that will better our communities. Early in 2016, each hospital applied for and received a five year, $3.5 million incentive payment (each hospital provides $3.5 million, and state administered federal matching funds make up the other half). These funds are being used to implement services that our small, rural hospitals wouldn’t be able to afford without this federal support.
At Eastern Plumas Health Care, the funds are being used to create a new Behavioral Health Program. For the first time, patients will be able to see a psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed clinical social worker for their behavioral health needs. In addition, these services will be integrated with their primary care, making for the best possible “whole person” care for each patient.
Plumas District Hospital’s project involves the comprehensive management of chronic, non-malignant pain. They are focusing on best prescribing practices among providers, with goals of reducing the total number of narcotic prescriptions and average doses of narcotics prescribed. It includes team centered care to identify addiction as well as psychiatric co-conditions such as depression and anxiety. A newly recruited pain specialist physician will provide targeted non-narcotic interventions for pain relief.
Seneca Healthcare District is implementing a Care Coordination Program that integrates inpatient and outpatient care. The Program will facilitate timely communication between patients’ healthcare team members and will encourage patients to take an active role in their own care.
Finally, Proposition 52 helps reduce losses incurred by our hospitals when we provide services to Medi-Cal patients. By continuing this hospital funding program, we ensure that much needed services for all of our patients are protected.
*Population statistics from US Census Bureau, 2013; MediCal statistics from

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