NESPELEM—Unplanned expenses have postponed construction plans at Lake Roosevelt Community Health Centers, but LRCHC director Ali Desautel hopes a new contract relationship will end expensive temporary contracts—and benefit the Keller community.

Desautel expects three health care providers from Coulee Medical Center to begin providing care at Keller’s clinic April 6—a contract development Desautel hopes will end expensive temporary coverage for the rural location.

The Keller clinic has been without a full time care provider since November, said Desautel, and during the interim, the clinic has been staffed by temporary hires brought in at what Desautel estimated to be close to three times the regular cost.

In the clinic’s most recent financial quarter, LRCHC finished in the red much in part due to the contracts that provide temporary care for two or three week stretches despite patient numbers increasing nearly across the board. The deficit has forced the clinic to postpone until June a 2,200 square foot expansion of their Inchelium location that had been slated to begin this spring.

“We hope to bring more consistency,” said Desautel, concerning the new contract with the Grand Coulee-based Coulee Medical Center.

The contract allows the clinic coverage four days per week starting April 6.

“We don’t have to worry about housing,” said Desautel. “Housing is a big issue. They live in the Coulee Dam area, so they will just be traveling to Keller and back.”

Two of the providers have been at CMC for several years, Desautel said.

“Some of the patients will be familiar with those providers and be more willing to go to the Keller clinic,” said Desautel.

The problem of housing is across the reservation like all of Indian Country said, Health and Human Services Chair Andy Joseph, Jr., who suggested Desautel add the cost of providing housing to care providers to her Indian Health Service’s annual scope of work.

“We’ve been saying that is an issue, trying to get providers to come to rural areas,” said Joseph. “One of the things that we also tell them is that we have a lot of housing shortages with our own people. If I.H.S. is going to fund housing for providers, we need to go after that.”

In Inchelium, LRCHC now rents two units in the Buttercup Lane development from Colville Indian Housing Authority for just over $700 monthly apiece, according to Desautel.

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