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Moriah seeking doctor for health center

MINEVILLE - Hudson Headwater Health Network wants to operate the Moriah Health Center for a long time - and it's willing to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of the community.

That was the message delivered by Dr. John Rugge, Hudson Headwaters chief executive officer, at the March 10 Moriah town board meeting.

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.

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.

"What's happening in Moriah is an Adirondack-wide crisis, perhaps a national crisis," Rugge said. "Young doctors don't want to go into primary care."

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.

"Physician recruitment is a major problem," Rugge said.

He urged Moriah residents and officials to contact him or other Hudson Headwater officials if they have concerns.

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