Chelan hospital Board votes to approve affiliation agreement with University of Washington family medicine residency program, in partnership with Columbia Valley Community Health

Lake Chelan Community Hospital (LCCH) will become the state’s sixth host hospital and training site for a Family Medicine Residency Rural Program, the hospital Board voted at a special meeting Thursday, June 7. Beginning in August 2020, physician residents from the University of Washington’s (UW) residency program will practice at LCCH in partnership with Columbia Valley Community Health (CVCH). There will be two physicians in Chelan the first year, followed by another two in 2021, for a total of four in the valley.

The residency doctors will spend two years in Chelan and practice primarily at CVCH, spending about a third of their time at LCCH. Each resident will have a panel of patients at CVCH and work in the hospital’s emergency room, medical / surgical unit and Sanctuary addiction recovery unit. They will also deliver babies and spend a small portion of time at Confluence Health in Wenatchee finishing neurology, nephrology, cardiology and dermatology rotations.

“This program is a natural outgrowth of our two agencies’ deep commitment to Chelan and to people who choose not to live in big cities,” said Dr. Malcolm Butler, CVCH Chief Medical Officer. “It is a testimony to cooperation between CVCH and LCCHC that our medical community can win such a coveted training program.”

“What an opportunity for Lake Chelan Hospital,” said Steve Patonai, LCCHC interim CEO. “The community will benefit from this affiliation in many ways. Physician residents will bring new ideas, and it will raise the bar for all caregivers in the hospital, as well as improve patient access. It will also be a valuable recruiting tool.”

Seventy percent of residents stay within 30 miles of where they trained, explained Dr. Keri Bergeson, who will serve as the program’s rural site director. Bergeson, a family physician at CVCH, developed and championed Chelan’s affiliation with UW’s residency rural program. She has practiced in the valley for four years and worked tirelessly on the residency project since 2015

“Our biggest goal is to increase the number of physicians we have working the valley,” said Bergeson.  “We are facing a critical shortage of family care providers and hope this becomes a solution to that problem.”

Chelan’s program will provide residents, new doctors who have graduated from medical school, with the necessary clinical skills and community engagement training to make a difference in the health of their local community, said Bergeson. When they finish their residency, two more will join the program, keeping a continual flow of new physicians in the valley. Other Family Medicine Residency Rural Programs in Washington state include Cle Elum, Chehalis, Colville, Ellensburg and Port Angeles.

“We are thrilled with the hospital Board’s decision to partner with us,” said Bergeson, who explained that a residency program in Chelan is a great fit because of the many diverse services offered here. While developing the program, CVCH engaged three nationally recognized consultants, all of whom agreed Chelan is the perfect spot for such a program.

“Practicing in a town like Chelan is night and day different than practicing in Seattle or Spokane, and the best way to train doctors for this lifestyle and practice style is to train them right here,” said Butler. “Dr. Bergeson is wonderful. She brought a university to town!”

Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board Chair expressed enthusiasm about the project. “With our Board moving forward with the UW and CVCH on this agreement, a brand-new day is dawning. All of us in the Chelan valley will, for many years, see an added dynamic to the future of medicine right here at home. This is truly a historic time for us.”

In other business, the LCCHC Board also voted to approve the CEO executive position overview presented by B.E. Smith