Mascoma Clinic Opens

  • Callie Cox, of Canaan, right, talks with Jen Walker, of Canaan, left, after leavig an open house at the newly built Mascoma Community Health Center in Canaan, N.H., Monday, March 27, 2017. The building is being funded with a loan from USDA Rural Development and is seeking to fill a void of dental, primary and mental health care, among other disciplines, in an area with few other accessible options. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2017 12:07:21 AM
Modified: 6/17/2017 12:07:24 AM

Canaan — Today marks the grand opening of the community-owned nonprofit Mascoma Community Health Center off Route 4, where the nine-member staff has already begun checking vital signs and treating everything from minor injuries to chronic illness for its first several patients.

Now that the recently completed 13,000-square-foot building, which was backed by a $3.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is filled with eager staff and gleaming new equipment, clinic leaders are focused on bringing in patients, Clinical Director Donna Ransmeier said.

“We’d like to have 1,000 patients this year,” said Ransmeier, an opening goal in a larger effort to get up to a “comfortable number” of about 3,000 patients. Officials have said the project will break even at 2,100 patients.

About 150 new patient packets were distributed to area residents during a public forum in late March; as of Friday, about 60 people had turned them in. The clinic board on Monday decided to train volunteers to help people fill out the six-page packet, Ransmeier said.

“Some of the board members had signed up as patients and they said, ‘Wow, this is really long,’ ” she said of the packets.

Once fully trained, the volunteers will be available to help people at the clinic, or to visit the homes of those who need help.

Though the five-suite dental unit won’t open for a few weeks, the clinic is already providing medical services, behavioral health services and referral services for patients. The clinic has a sliding scale fee system that allows it to treat patients regardless of income level or health insurance status, Ransmeier said.

“We’ll serve anyone and everyone,” she said.

Ransmeier said a soft opening on Monday helped the staff to iron out kinks in their workflow, and also set the standard of establishing personal relationships with patients.

“They get introduced to us by name,” she said. “I’m usually out front. The patients get to know me. We want people to feel like we’re all part of the community.”

Ransmeier said the staff were particularly anxious to see things go smoothly in the first few days, and even did practice runs by role-playing for one another.

“We wanted everything to be perfect for our first patient,” she said. “We wanted the doctor to be able to come in and run everything smoothly.”

When the clinic’s first patient walked in the door on Monday, it didn’t take long to hit a speed bump. Shortly after one of two full-time nurses on staff took the patient into the exam room, “the nurse came out and was sort of a little bit panicked,” Ransmeier said.

While entering the patient’s medical information into the digital records system, the computer had frozen, and the nurse was worried that the information might have been lost.

Ransmeier said it took her only seconds to sort things out — the new internet connection had failed and needed to be restored, and they soon learned the data had been saved by the record system.

It was a small problem that was quickly resolved, Ransmeier said, but it added to the staff’s anxiety. By Friday, she said, the team had eight patients under its belt, and had gained confidence in their new surroundings.

One person who plans to receive care there is board member and Canaan Town Administrator Mike Samson, who said he hopes to make a full recovery from serious injuries he received during a car crash a week ago.

“My wife and I are turning in our packets soon,” he said.

The timing of the clinic’s opening is good, he said — but not perfect.

“It would have been better for me if they were open a week ago,” he said.

Samson said that a successful round of fundraising over the past few months has exceeded goals, and that the clinic is opening its doors with about $500,000 in the bank.

“It’s more than we had hoped for,” he said. “On the other hand, we can never have enough.”

One of the major donors, Karen Wolk, will speak during today’s event, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at the clinic, located at 18 Roberts Road.

The schedule also includes remarks from board members and government officials. After a 12:15 p.m. lunch, the public will be invited to tour the facility, and staff will be on hand to sign up new patients.

Board Chairman Dale Barney, who owns an insurance agency in Canaan, said the event will be an important milestone in a larger journey that he hopes, in the long term, will lead to an expansion of services to include, among other things, a pharmacy, X-ray capabilities, and physical therapy.

“We’re up and operating. Everyone sees the building and the signs,” he said. “Now we’ve got to get the patient base going. We’ve had lots of encouragement, and good things are happening.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at or 603-727-3211.

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