The St. Charles Rheumatology clinic in Bend first opened its doors in 2015, offering comprehensive care for people with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, psoriatic arthritis and lupus.
Now, there’s good news for patients in the northern reaches of Central Oregon: The health system has expanded rheumatology services into Redmond, where people there and in Prineville, Madras, Sisters and points beyond can receive the care they need closer to home.
The new Redmond clinic will be serviced by Dr. Andrew Shaffer, who joined the rheumatology team last August. He’s currently taking appointments on Tuesdays and plans to add more clinic days in the near future.
Central Oregon has hundreds of rheumatology patients, partly due to its popularity as a retirement area; around 16% of Bend’s population is over the age of 65, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The Bend rheumatology clinic will remain open, and the expansion to Redmond comes at a good time, as Deschutes Rheumatology closed its doors at the end of January.
“We've seen a pretty big spike in volume because of that. I'm confident that we have the capacity to accommodate all those patients, though,” said St. Charles’ chief of Rheumatology, Dr. Heather Hansen, who ran the department on her own for about seven years. She was joined by physician’s assistant Tianna Welch in September 2021 and Shaffer in 2022.
Dovetailing with the Redmond expansion, a new outpatient infusion clinic also recently opened on the Bend hospital campus. Previously, rheumatology patients needing an infusion had to go to the St. Charles Cancer Center. That option will remain, but the new outpatient clinic offers a more affordable and convenient place for infusions. It’s also in the same building as the Bend rheumatology clinic at 2600 NE Neff Road.
There is a “higher degree of physician supervision than you would have in a lot of freestanding infusion rooms,” said Hansen, who is also the director of outpatient infusion. Patients needing neurology, G.I. and other non-oncology treatments will also be able to receive infusions in the outpatient clinic.
“The proximity to their rheumatology physician is wonderful and allows us to collaborate on visits,” said Jonnie Becker, administrative director of Surgical Services and Medical Specialties. “Having our own space allows us to develop our team [and] work together with the immediate team in service of our patients.”
Nationwide, Hansen said there’s a growing demand for rheumatology services. Millions of people in the United States suffer from some form of rheumatic disease, and rheumatology is one of the top specialties experiencing a provider shortage, she said.
“It is an ever-increasing need,” Becker said. “Our medicine continues to evolve and change and grow, and we're helping people to improve the quality of their life as they age.”