Multnomah County's award-winning health center staff meet to face 2013 challenges

Wednesday, 2/27/13 - 5:10 pm

More than 450 Multnomah County health clinic staff met Feb. 27 to strengthen their team work and how they tackle patient issues such as obesity and suicide risk.

The nurses, pharmacists, physicians and others primary care staff members gathered at the annual all-staff meeting at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Portland. The employees work at eight primary care health centers and 13 school-based health centers across the county. The clinics were closed for part of the day so staff could attend.

The gathering was a rare pause for people who care for nearly 1 in 10 Multnomah County residents, or about 70,000 people. Eighty percent of the patients earn incomes below the federal poverty level.

Vanetta Abdellatif, director of integrated clinical services for the county, highlighted the accomplishments that clinic staff achieved in 2012. Last year, Multnomah County health clinics:

  • Were recognized as a patient-centered medical home by the Oregon Health Authority and the Joint Commission.
  • Achieved a rise in patient satisfaction at both primary care clinics and school-based health centers. Nearly 7 in 10 county clients said their health care team always listens carefully, shows respect, explains things well, spends enough time and treats them as a partner.
  • Saw improvements in patients’ mental health with nearly 1,600 patients saying their symptoms of depression decreased by more than 50 percent.
  • Offer continuous care for patients – 80 percent of clients see their own primary care provider, one of the highest rates in the Tri-County medical community.
  • Won a grant to open a new school-based health-center at Centennial High School.
  • Plan to resume primary care services at the Southeast Health Center in April 2013.


“Thank you,’’ Abdellatif said, “for all your work and the excellent quality care you provide every one of our clients.’’

Abdellatif also pointed to the challenges ahead in health reform. Primary care is the centerpiece of Oregon’s health reform, in which the doctor’s office or medical home is the hub where staff know the patients and work closely with them to better coordinate with specialists, mental health providers and other social services to improve that person’s health.

Dr. Meena Mital, interim medical director, said that patients have better health when their care is centered around them, is coordinated and proactive and involves work by both provider and patient.

“We’ve been doing just this all these years,’’ she said to the staff, “You’ve created relationships with our patients that are already producing incredible outcomes.’’

Dr. Mital said the county staff are also being called to deliver more and that health transformation demands “we really really push ourselves to offer the highest quality of care every time.”

She said patient satisfaction remains a priority, which means interacting with patients in a way that is meaningful to the patient and motivates them to take care of their diseases and follow care plans.

Finally, she said, people in health care have a responsibility to help slow the rising cost of health care by leveraging relationship with patients and our teams and doing everything we can to help people avoid crisis and unnecessary trips to the emergency room.

Arty Trost, a motivational speaker billed as the nation’s only female long-distance ultralight pilot, urged staff to dream big, make those dreams public to garner support and, finally, prepare relentlessly to achieve them.

Staff then broke into a series of workshops on cultural competency, weight management, suicide risk and communications.