Tribal Government & News

General Council briefed on efforts to improve health care

04.14.2015 Dean Rhodes General Council, Health & Wellness

By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

Health and Wellness Department employees, as well as members of the Tribe’s Health Committee, briefed Tribal members on efforts to improve medical care and service at the Health and Wellness Clinic during the April 12 General Council meeting held in the Community Center.

Health Committee members Patti Tom-Martin and Alan Ham told the packed General Council audience that access and quality of care, as well as communication, needs to improve.

“We wanted to begin by acknowledging that we do have problems that need to be fixed,” Ham said, adding that the committee has the beginning of a four-page plan to improve service.

Health Services Executive Director Jeffrey Lorenz went through a PowerPoint presentation that gave an overview of the services offered at the Health Clinic, including medical, dental, optometry, behavioral health, pharmacy, lab, X-rays, community health, adult foster care and speech therapy.

Lorenz discussed current efforts that will help improve the quality of patient care. The clinic, he said, is encouraging all patients to connect with a primary care provider, which will improve the continuity of care, patient health, communication, prevention coordination efforts and overall satisfaction.

“You’ll save time because you won’t have to go over your health history every time you come in to see a provider,” Lorenz said.

The clinic also has instituted a new urgent care system designed to increase patient access, quality of care and provider satisfaction since the doctors and family nurse practitioners will see a mixture of acute and chronic cases. Every day, a dedicated provider will see acute cases on a first-come, first-served basis.

The clinic also has started a Patient Portal so that clients can access their health records via the Internet and is preparing to add a part-time internist – Dr. Dag Kremer – who has a sub-specialty in dealing with kidney disorders. The addition of Kremer should make it more convenient for patients with kidney problems who will no longer have to travel to Salem or McMinnville, Lorenz said.

Other items the Health and Wellness Department will be addressing in the near future, Lorenz said, are development of a code of conduct, improvement of the referral process, more timely communication of test results and developing job specific competencies. The clinic also will work on improving communication with patients through use of the online Patient Portal, a dedicated Health and Wellness page in Smoke Signals, frequent updates on the Tribe’s Facebook page and updating the department’s webpage at

Lorenz added that the department also will soon be holding community meetings to solicit input.

Tribal Council Vice Chair Jack Giffen Jr. said Tribal Council also is currently looking at transitioning to a health authority to oversee operation of the Health and Wellness Clinic, as well as bringing in a third party to audit how well the clinic is operating.

“An audit will make the clinic stronger and see where our weaknesses are,” Giffen said.

After his presentation, Lorenz fielded almost 20 questions and comments from audience members.

Culture Committee member Marcus Gibbons commented on the lack of a cultural or traditional component in the department’s mission statement, which Lorenz said he is thinking about adding to the statement.

Tribal Elder Wink Soderberg said he liked the idea of a Patient Portal because it will save time, which saves money. He also suggested the clinic hire more providers. “We need a full house here,” he said.

Tribal Elder Marcella Selwyn said that the Health and Wellness Department needs to check on homebound Tribal Elders, especially those who have recently been hospitalized. Her comment was endorsed by Tribal Council member Denise Harvey, who added that when it comes to providing health care for Tribal members, especially home checks for Elders, “It’s not always about the budget.”

Other Tribal members lobbied for medical provider and pharmacy hours on Saturdays.

“Not everybody gets sick Monday through Friday, 8 to 5,” said Tribal Council member Jon A. George. “We don’t schedule our illnesses, so I think Saturday we could look at.”

Tribal Elder Val Grout complimented the department’s Adult Foster Care workers. “They take excellent care of Tribal Elders,” she said. And Veronica Gaston praised Lorenz for moving his office to the first floor of the clinic to be closer to daily operations.

Also attending the General Council meeting were Medical Director Dr. Lance Loberg, Family Nurse Practitioner Amanda Mehlhoff and Health & Wellness Business Office Manager Tresa Mercier.

Before the Health and Wellness presentation, 28 Tribal members and community residents were honored by Tribal Police Chief Al LaChance for completing the eight-week Community Emergency Response Team training.

Those who received their certificates were Roger Asbahr, Betty Bly, Patrick Dempsey, Violet Folden, Jerry George, Tribal Council member Tonya Gleason-Shepek, Annette Haller, Shannon Haskins, Gladys Hobbs, Mel Holmes, Richard and Scarlett Holtz, Elizabeth Houck, Ronald Johnson, Duke Kimsey, Deborah Kroeker, John Mercier, Marion Mercier, Patricia Mercier, Candice Olsen, Carmen Parren, Greg Patton, Raymond Petite, Sally Petite, Delores Pinder and Dorothy Piper.

In addition to the certificates, they received CERT backpacks filled with supplies needed in case of an emergency.

In other action, George gifted a necklace to new General Manager Dawn Doar, who was attending her first General Council meeting.

The next General Council meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 3, in the Community Center.

George, Bobby Mercier, Brian Krehbiel, Travis Stewart, Veterans Royalty Queen Savannah Ingram and Senior Miss Grand Ronde Promise Rimer opened the meeting with cultural drumming and singing.

Ann Lewis, Eric Bernando and Joanna Brisbois won the $50 door prizes and Tribal Elder Alton Butler won the $100 door prize. Two necklaces made by George and jars of food donated by Gaston also were raffled off.

The meeting concluded with an almost two-hour executive session devoted solely to the MicroGREEN Polymers issue.

An edited version of the meeting without the executive session can be viewed on the Tribal website,, under the News tab and then click on the Video link.

Tribal members wanting a copy of the entire meeting should contact Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Martin at or 503-879-2304.