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Hometown Heroine: Taylor Brings Healthcare Back to the South County Community

By Denise M. Roberts
Special to SusanvilleStuff
from the Long Valley Ledger

Once upon a time, there was a hospital at Sierra Army Depot that served the basic health care needs of the Herlong and Doyle communities. Many native Herlongites still residing in the area have proudly claimed their Sierra Ordnance Depot birth certificates; I am one of them.

After the 980th Military Police Company was activated at Sierra Army Depot in the mid-1960s, care was restricted to military personnel and their dependents, as well as civilian employees and their families. But Sierra Army Depot’s medical staff responded to a great many emergency calls in the communities. In 1964, I watched as family members were loaded into ambulances after a critical accident in Doyle. No additional ambulances available, my brother and I rode in a depot Security vehicle to the hospital and he was then rushed to Reno.

Had it not been for that hospital, at least two of my family would have died that day. Others have known those benefits as well. And for almost 30 years, the community was assured someone cared about their well-being.

Lost and alone
Fast forward to the 90s…a major change in the base’s organization structure saw that last bastion of local health care end. When that mission changed, support services for a military mission were no longer needed and many people who lived and worked in proximity to the base lost access to local care. Before too long, a Northeastern Rural Health Clinic opened in Doyle, giving local residents respite from the approximately 90-mile round trip to Susanville or Reno, Nevada. But it was not to last. For at least the last decade, not even basic medical care has been available to the Herlong and Doyle communities.

From 2015-2017, many meetings were held with Northeastern Rural Health to attempt a re-opening of the Doyle Clinic but after years of begging, pleading and cajoling, nothing happened. The aforementioned 90-mile round trip remained a financial and logistical burden for residents, especially the many retirees who call these areas home. In addition, the imaginary line that is the state border conflicted with insurance coverage, noted as out of subscriber area, out of network.

Elsie Taylor

Help from home
Then fellow Herlongite Elsie Taylor came home with a vision. A graduate of Herlong High School (1972), she lived to serve. Taylor followed her heart into medicine, becoming first a Registered Nurse, then Nurse Practitioner and finally, graduated from the Stanford University Nursing School as a Physician’s Assistant in 2014. Taylor found several troubling things when she came back.
A large number of people required dialysis and the trip to Reno for that care was a huge burden on these already overwhelmed and critically ill neighbors.

In addition, the overall lack of basic care, not to mention emergency care, was astonishing. Waiting 45 minutes for an ambulance from Susanville was a serious issue. Even base personnel had to be taken to Reno for emergency care if something, even minor, went wrong at a work site.

Taylor knew this could not continue because lives were at risk. Undaunted by the enormity of her vision, she undertook the laborious process of finding a way to bring healthcare back to the community. First, Taylor needed a place to make a clinic and purchased the former Mormon church building. Next, she enlisted the help of another clinician, Family Nurse Practitioner Joseph Drago from Utah, to help her open the practice.

Taylor has had a lot of support from friends, family and other health professionals to overcome the odds and the obstacles to make this dream a reality.

Changing for the better
The need for local care is dire for many because they have foregone necessary care due to cost and distance. Taylor is making the initial steps to rectify that situation with a basic healthcare environment that will be a general family practice. Funding will be handled through private insurance, Medicare and MediCal. In addition, grants are available for rural health systems. Basic laboratory services will be offered through Quest Diagnostics and Taylor is working on acquisition of an electronics health record system.

In time, X-ray services will be added and, Taylor hopes, a therapeutic swimming pool, basic dental services, as well as a small modular building for additional treatment rooms and dental services. Pharmacy services will not be available for security reasons. Taylor will also begin addressing the rising problem with opioids by requesting a waiver to write prescriptions for Suboxone (for treatment of opioid dependence).

On Saturday, Taylor invited the public to the pre-opening of the new Frontier Health Clinic, which will be operational in about two or three weeks. She noted the former four classrooms, which interconnect, will be turned into treatment rooms and the main hall of the building will be a community center as well. To help celebrate this momentous occasion, the Fort Sage Family Resource Center was on hand to set up an Easter Egg hunt as well as offer hot dogs and punch for refreshments. The youngsters were in awe of not one, but four, bounce houses, courtesy of Bounce House Rentals of Dayton, Nevada.

It is a much brighter future on the horizon for the southern Lassen County residents. The most important aspects of a happy community are employment, schools and healthcare. With Taylor’s grand vision and monumental love of her hometown, we will now be in a position to become healthier, happier and more productive in our own environment. Some say it takes a miracle…but we know it takes a hometown heroine and that is Elsie Taylor, who brought her skills and talents back to the community, when they needed it most.

Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso
SusanvilleStuff.com Publisher/Editor
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