Physician assistant Danny Lee Mingus joined the North Fork Medical Clinic staff on April 14 and is seeing patients five days a week.
"He's a godsend," said Dr. Timothy Meilner, who has worked at the clinic for 20 years and has been its sole health care provider since last July. The two providers have more than a half century of combined experience.
Mingus was a U.S. Navy corpsman from 1977-1992, then was commissioned as Ensign and stationed at three different facilities as a PA. He retired from the Navy in 2001 and worked in a rural clinic in Robbinville, N.C., until July 2007. After moving to Bryson City, N.C., a town similar in size to Paonia, he worked in a small clinic and gained emergency room experience.
His experience, and his ER experience in particular, is greatly appreciated, said Meilner. "The transition is a lot easier. I don't have to train him to rural medicine or emergencies. It takes a lot off my plate."
Meilner has practiced family medicine for 22 years, and for 20 years in Paonia. Because of Mingus' high level of experience, they can share responsibilities. That's taken a lot of weight off of Meilner's shoulders and is allowing the clinic to extend its four-day week to five days.
Mingus can relate to Meilner's situation. He once spent several months as the only care provider in Bryson City because the clinic couldn't find help.
Mingus, who grew up in Telluride, returned to the area to help care for his parents now living in Cedaredge, and for his terminally ill father. He likes being back in Colorado and is looking forward to paying in-state rates for hunting licenses.
"We were just hoping something like this would happen, and it did," said Meilner, who hired Mingus sight unseen. On a visit to the area he made a call to Paonia Care and Rehabilitation Center and administrator Loretha Barnes-Rolf. She'd been praying for the right person to find the clinic, said Meilner. "She knew he was the right one."
Now that they've worked together, "I think it's a good fit," added Meilner.
In addition to his work at the clinic, Mingus also works every other weekend at Mountain Peaks Urgent Care in Fruita.
The Paonia office is now fully staffed. Family nurse practitioner AliceMarie Slaven-Emond, administrator and health care provider at Delta Health and Wellness Center in Delta, also sees patients Tuesdays and Fridays, said Meilner. An on-call doctor or practitioner is also available after hours and on weekends.
They accept all insurance plans, and are offering X-rays one day a week. Staff is also more prepared to accept walk-ins. While they won't be accepting new pain-control patients, they plan to begin accepting applications for new patients, said Meilner.
While he still hears that people are upset with long waits for appointments, the wait time is decreasing, said Meilner. And while there may be a two- or three-week wait in some cases, Meilner is urging his patients who don't want to wait to "Give Danny a try. He's more than capable."
Meilner said he hopes the addition of Mingus marks a turning point for the clinic, which just last fall was struggling to keep its doors open. They hope to eventually bring more practitioners on board, and to re-establish the Hotchkiss office. One option at Hotchkiss is an urgent care facility, which is in line with Mingus' experience.