In the Media


“The week of March 16, and the following week, we had 30-percent decline in revenue because of a reduction in visits. After that, it was down 10 percent but, ever since, we’ve been over 100 percent, and most recently 115 percent of productivity,” noted Jason Cunningham, CEO of West County Health Centers. “Visits coming in have exceeded what we were seeing prior to COVID-19, which I am so thankful for because otherwise we were going to do layoffs and other things because there was no way we could survive. But that only happened because we were able to pivot quickly on to video and telephone.”

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Guerneville Park n Ride

Now, homeless individuals are among those especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions that put them at risk of complications and poor outcomes, said Jason Cunningham, a family physician and chief executive officer for the nonprofit West County Health Centers.
While ongoing coronavirus screening and outreach efforts indicate a high level of awareness and concern in the population, most are not in a position to maintain physical distance or proper hygiene.
An outbreak in the homeless population would likely spread very rapidly within those circles and to the wider community ―a threat that has suddenly become more urgent, given news last week of several cases detected during testing at encampments in Santa Rosa, Cunningham said.

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West County Health Centers in California’s rural Sonoma County has been working to ensure that patients who suspect they have COVID-19 and/or those experiencing respiratory symptoms are sequestered from patients who may need to come to the clinic for others reasons, such as wound care, infections, STD checks, and hormone injections

WCHC Drive Thru COVID Testing
West County Health Centers conducts COVID-19 curbside testing at one of their community health centers.

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Telemedicine video visit

The federal government has, for the first time, extended telemedicine to all Medicare beneficiaries regardless of their circumstances.

“We are in a unique time in which inexpensive, off-the-shelf video technology allows us to provide meaningful and clinically relevant care to even our most vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Jason Cunningham, CEO of West County Health Centers, which serves 15,000 patients.

“Most importantly, it allows us to provide ongoing care that is safe for our patients and staff in this critical time for our community,” he said.

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Press Democrat - Coronavirus testing

West County Health Centers also requires patients to be screened by a clinician over the phone and determined to have “symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” said Dr. Rain Moore, chief medical officer.

Tests are being conducted in the parking lots of selected clinics.

Patients may also discuss their condition by arranging a phone appointment with their provider. “More importantly, anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 is being asked to isolate in-home if they are stable,” Moore said

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There are two reasons why Michael Majeski often smiles as he goes about his daily tasks of filling prescriptions and consulting with patients and doctors.

Majeski, the 34-year-old pharmacist at the independently owned Sebastopol Family Pharmacy, loves his job and helping people. In his business, one cannot exist without the other.

It’s the reason he abandoned working at large pharmacy chains to work for the small Sebastopol drugstore in October 2018. “In the corporate world, you’re pressed on time and efficiency,” Majeski said last week, while preparing a prescription. “In this setting, you can give patients more time.”
That means more time to consult with patients, more time to understand complex drug interactions and more time for professional training in his field.

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Forestville Wellness Center, January 8, 2020
Forestville Wellness Center, January 8, 2020

A small fire last week at the Forestville Wellness Center, which provides health services to 3,500 West County Health Centers patients, has forced its closure for an extended period, officials for the nonprofit said.

The usual array of individual treatments and group health programs offered at the Front Street site will still be available during the closure at the Gravenstein Community Health Center in Sebastopol, officials said.

“We’ll be moving all of our services from the Forestville Wellness Center to our Sebastopol location,” said Mary Szecsey, chief executive officer of the west Sonoma County health care provider. “There’s not going to be any change in the services while we make those repairs.”

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Dr. Ellen Bauer
Dr. Ellen Bauer
West County Health Centers has appointed Ellen Bauer as chief administrative officer, effective Feb. 10. Bauer joins the community health system after a 16-year-long career with the county of Sonoma, where she most recently served as director of public health, managing a staff of over 200, the health organization announced Jan. 3.

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West County Health Centers’ CEO Mary Szecsey was a recipient of the 2019 North Bay Nonprofit Leadership Awards

View a video of Mary Szecsey’s acceptance speech here




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The nurses’ station at the Russian River Health Center in Guerneville is a cramped room with a computer station on each wall for the center’s lead medical assistant and three nurses.

The room is connected to another medical office, a narrow space that looks more like a hallway. Nurses, doctors and medical assistants deftly navigate their tight quarters, providing health care to some of the most vulnerable residents in Guerneville and other lower Russian River communities.

“It’s not an ideal setting,” said Jerry Elliott, a physician assistant at the Russian River Health Center. “It’s a good building, but the soundproofing isn’t great and the insulation isn’t great.”

The clinic’s modular buildings were erected less than a year after an arson fire in late 2015 destroyed the original Russian River Health Center. Even that building, a converted residence used as a community clinic since 1974, was less than ideal.

Now the Guerneville clinic is going to get a modern home. On Friday, operator West County Health Centers broke ground on the $14 million Russian River Health & Wellness Center and expects to finish construction and open the 10,000-square-foot medical and dental clinic’s doors by late 2020.

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