Essential Health on hiatus after serving patients since 2001

After 12 years offering free urgent care to uninsured patients in Washington County, Hillsboro-based Essential Health Clinic has closed its doors — at least for the time being.

“We had gone for emergency funding from our stakeholders, and we were hopeful,” Sue Neal, interim executive director, said Monday. “The money just didn’t come in.”

The nonprofit, which operated no-fee clinics in Hillsboro and Tigard three evenings a week, suspended clinic operations last week. The final day for paid staff is Friday, March 22.

“We were hanging on for as long as we could,” Neal said. “We know this leaves a big hole.”

Designed as a medical volunteer service corps providing urgent care and access to health care to uninsured county residents, Essential Health Clinic had support from dozens of doctors, nurses, translators and other health care professionals who donated their time to the effort.

“It takes about 25 volunteers a night to run a clinic,” noted Neal, who added that the group’s board of directors will not disband but instead will try to identify “a sustainable model” for its operations, which she characterized as the securing of adequate long-term funding.

In the next 60 to 90 days, Neal said, the board hopes to identify options for a merger or restructuring plan so the nonprofit can resume operations.

Until now, Essential Health has operated out of offices at 266 W. Main St. in Hillsboro and held clinics in facilities owned by Washington County.

“They’ve been one of our main supporters in terms of infrastructure,” said Neal, who has been with the organization since the beginning as a founding board member.

Partners in the venture, which began in 2001, included Providence, Legacy, Kaiser and Tuality health systems. For now, Neal said clinic operators are advising former Essential Health patients to go to the Virginia Garcia Wellness Center in Cornelius or the Neighborhood Health Center in Beaverton.

Over the years, Essential Health Clinic has served more than 130,000 patients and cared for an average of 4,600 people each year, Neal said.

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