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Health center looking to acquire West County Physicians

CHARLEMONT — The Community Health Center of Franklin County is in discussions to acquire the West County Physicians medical practice and turn its Charlemont site into a satellite office.

The transaction is shaping into a merger, not a financial acquisition, said officials. If it happened — and a lot needs to occur to make the merger possible — the 40-year-old West County practice’s 6,000 to 6,500 patients would see no negative changes in service, said representatives from both organizations.

Kathleen Grandison, the practice’s lone physician, said that the organization’s six employees would become health center employees. Affiliating with the health center, a federally qualified organization, could help the practice bring in new services or recruit new physicians to the area, she said.

The health center — which has offices in Greenfield, Turners Falls and Orange — could potentially bring its dental program to the county’s western towns if the merger goes through, said spokesman Cameron Carey.

“That area of the county is relatively isolated. (People) have very few choices in terms of medical (services),” he said.

While Grandison has struggled for years to recruit a new physician to come to rural Charlemont, the health center may have better results. Carey said that medical school graduates applying to work at the health center may qualify for a federal loan forgiveness program.

More people may be able to receive care, as well. West County Physicians already accepts most major insurances, including Medicare (a federally subsidized program for the elderly) and Medicaid (a federally subsidized program for the poor), said Grandison. But Carey said that the community health center provides services to anyone, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

Carey said the organizations wanted to inform residents now about discussions, but stressed that the merger is not a done deal.

The health center is waiting to hear back about a federal grant that would pay for the expansion, he said. Both organizations would also need to formally approve the merger.

The health center had a small satellite in Mohawk Trail Regional High School from 2001 to 2009. Carey said that the center hadn’t been actively looking to expand into the area before the discussions with West County Physicians began.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com, 413-772-0261, ext. 264, On Twitter follow: @RecorderShores

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