At a time when many rural communities are facing healthcare provider shortages, Bertrand Chaffee Hospital (BCH) has been successful in recruiting highly qualified doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to its Primary Care Center. BCH is announcing that as of June 2015, three local healthcare providers will join the Primary Care practice on the hospital’s third floor.

Dr. William Wnuk, Melissa Fanton, RPA-C and Ken Osborn, PA will be seeing patients in the hospital’s expanding primary care practice as soon as June 1, 2015.

Residents within the 525-square-mile service area of BCH can access high quality, local healthcare through a growing number of primary care providers.

“This important work of recruiting providers has been in direct response to a clear community demand – people want access to health services close to home, and they want to support their local hospital,” said Nils Gunnersen, BCH CEO. As an example of this support, the BCH primary care center has seen patient volume more than double in the last 18 months.

Dr. Wnuk earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Canisius College and his doctorate in medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He completed his residency in internal medicine-pediatrics at SUNY Buffalo, and is certified in cardiac stress testing, pediatric advanced life support and advanced cardiac life support. Dr. Wnuk and his family reside in Springville, and have been an integral part of the community.

When a patient comes to BCH, a primary care provider may recommend lab tests, x-rays or other imaging services as part of a routine checkup. These procedures can be done at BCH’s facility. Patients who see, or are referred to, providers out of the area often navigate a complex, impersonal and intimidating system, which can be difficult for those with chronic health conditions or transportation concerns. Those patients then require additional travel to different locations far from home for those same procedures and tests.

BCH has had an affiliation with Catholic Health since 2009 and Catholic Medical Partners (CMP) since 2013. This relationship has provided BCH patients with access to a larger network that values collaboration, while retaining the hospital’s independent governance. BCH, Catholic Health and CMP support a team-based, community model of healthcare where providers coordinate care through local offices. This is a contrast to other healthcare models that direct patients to centralized locations in urban areas for management of routine health conditions.

“When patients choose to seek medical care locally, they are doing more than just maintaining their own health – they are supporting the health of the local economy,” said Timothy Horner, president of the BCH board of directors. “As more patients seek care at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital, it makes our community stronger.

Melissa Fanton specializes in family medicine, and has a master’s in physician assistant studies from Daemen College. She has been practicing as a physician assistant since 2006.

Ken Osborn specializes in internal medicine, and earned his degree at Albany Medical College. He has been practicing as a physician assistant since 1987. Both Osborn and Fanton belong to the New York State Society of Physician Assistants and the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and they are certified through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. “There is tremendous value for the community in increasing the number of our primary care providers,” explained Edwin Heidelberger, MD, PhD, vice president of medical affairs. “Having access to local medical services can improve continuity of care, which leads to better outcomes for patients.”

“As the closest hospital for more than 55,000 people in our region, we believe in the future of primary care in our rural area,” said Gunnersen. “The decision of Dr. Wnuk, Ms. Fanton and Mr. Osborn to join the Bertrand Chaffee Primary Care Center and to support local healthcare is a tremendous benefit for our patients, their families, and the community as a whole.”