World-Class Care for Rural Patients

September 28, 2017 | Mary Faith Bell

Everyone deserves access to health care that helps transform and improve their quality of life, but for people who live in rural Oregon coastal communities, access to specialty care can be challenging. 

Adventist Health’s Tillamook Regional Medical Center, a critical access hospital on the Oregon coast, is determined to improve access for patients by hiring highly qualified specialists who live and work in the communities they serve. Coastal patients no longer have to drive 60 or more miles over treacherous roads to receive specialty care in Portland. Based in Tillamook, the team of Brett LaFleur, a highly skilled orthopedic surgeon, and Ruben Franco Garcia, a physician assistant who specializes in orthopedics, is changing lives on the north Oregon coast for the better.

Former Tillamook County Commissioner Jerry Dove had both knees replaced by LaFleur in December 2016, and he’s loving the result. “I walk every day, a half mile or more, and I swim at the YMCA three times a week for an hour. I did physical therapy at rehabilitation services for four months. Rehab is fantastic. We started right away, the same day of my surgery," Dove says. "Dr. LaFleur told me I’d feel a lot better at six months, and it would be a year until I was fully recovered. It’s true I still have some soreness, but I’m feeling really good.”

Dove can't help but tell others about his experience. “I have told umpteen people about Dr. LaFleur," Dove says. "I see people walking at the YMCA in preparation for knee surgery, and I ask them, ‘Where are you going to have it done?’ If they say over the hill, I tell them to do themselves a favor and make an appointment with Dr. LaFleur. I couldn’t have had a better surgeon anywhere, and it was good for me and good for my wife to have it done right here at home.”

LaFleur has made a huge difference in Dove's life. “Having my knees replaced here has been excellent. I’m glad to be active again, doing the things I enjoy. I can do more for my wife now, and I don’t have to take pain pills for my knees anymore," Dove says. "My quality of life is 100 percent improved. I am a big supporter of Dr. LaFleur and this hospital. If I had it to do over again, I would do it here, with him. It’s really great to have this quality of excellent care in our community.” 

Sometimes orthopedic patients need a highly specialized surgery that can’t be performed in Tillamook. Recently LaFleur and Franco Garcia joined Aspire Orthopedic Institute, based at Adventist Health Portland. Being part of Aspire Orthopedic Institute means LaFleur can perform surgeries on local patients in state-of-the-art facilities. It is a big advantage to patients in far-flung rural communities to get the surgical care they need without changing doctors and to receive rehab and follow-up care in their own communities.