MINEVILLE - After a brief dalliance with another suitor, the town of Moriah has decided to renew its relationship with Hudson Headwaters Health Network.
The town board has approved a contract with HHHN to provide care at the Moriah Health Center for the years 2010-2015.
At the February town board meeting, Supervisor Tom Scozzafava had noted the town's lease with HHHN expires this year and revealed informal discussions with officials from Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt., about operating the local facility.
Hudson Headwater Health Network responded at the March board meeting as Dr. John Rugge, Hudson Headwaters chief executive officer, said his organization wanted to operate the Moriah Health Center for a long time - and was willing to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of the community.
The Moriah Health Center is a state-of-the-art facility that opened last year.
Rugge and a group of Hudson Headwaters officials attended the March meeting to make their case.
Finding a full-time doctor for Moriah is a top priority, Rugge said.
The local facility has been staffed by a physician's assistant with periodic visits by a doctor. That's changing, though. Rugge said a doctor from the HHHN Ticonderoga facility will be in Moriah on a regular basis until a full-time physician can be recruited.
Physician recruitment is a major problem for rural communities, Rugge explained.
The HHHN CEO explained most young physicians become specialists. He said SUNY-Albany and University of Vermont medical schools only graduated five primary care doctors last year.
He noted Dr. Mohammad Iqbal, who had been at the Moriah Health Center, left to specialize in kidney disease.
Rugge also pointed out HHHN can't match the pay of big-city hospitals, although it offers incentives such as $50,000 a year for five years to repay student loans and payment of malpractice insurance premiums.
He urged Moriah residents and officials to contact him or other Hudson Headwater officials if they have concerns.
Rugge said HHHN is working hard to attract a doctor and answer other concerns, but it needs to know the Moriah Health Center is in its long-term future.
The $1.2 million health center is located at the Moriah Industrial Park on Plank Road in Mineville.
Hudson Headwaters Health Network is a group of community health centers providing care to the residents in 11 North Country towns, including Schroon Lake and Ticonderoga.
Hudson Headwaters took over the Moriah Health Center, formerly the Mineville Health Center, Jan. 1, 2005. At that time the health center was in the Moriah Community Building, the former Republic Steel building in Mineville.
The new health center is a 4,000 square feet building with six exam rooms.
Moriah officials worked to arrange a partnership with Hudson Headwaters Health Network and to find funding for the new building.
The cost of the new health center was covered entirely by grants. Rep. John McHugh secured a $389,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration to go along with $799,000 McHugh previously secured for the project.