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Chronic pain management clinic wants to locate in Marion

A medical clinic specializing in chronic pain management hopes to locate in Marion.

In a Thursday interview, Konrad Kaeding, executive vice president of New Hope Medical Clinic, detailed the work the clinic would undertake. He noted that the needs of Southwest Virginia’s older population and Marion were brought to New Hope’s attention when the company hired Tammy Pennington, a nurse practitioner, to work in its Elkin, N.C., pain management clinic. A Smyth County native, Pennington has received advanced training in pain management and encouraged the company to consider Marion.

She connected the company with Dr. Ramzi Humsi, a longtime Marion doctor with a medical building and, though retired, who still maintains his medical license.

Discussions got under way about opening the pain management clinic at 1070 Terrace Drive.

In a letter to Town Manager Bill Rush, Kaeding said that while New Hope’s North Carolina clinics offer Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) for addiction recovery, its Marion clinic would not. MAT can include prescribing Suboxone, a medication used for the treatment of opioid addiction.

Kaeding wrote, “I understand members of Marion are not in favor of MAT, at least not in their backyard. We will not do anything that is not 100% supported by the local community. To that end, we hereby affirm that New Hope will NOT offer MAT (e.g., will not offer Suboxone) at the Marion location.”

In a more overarching sense, Kaeding said Thursday that New Hope would like to be a good neighbor and so wouldn’t come to Marion if the clinic would be a source of controversy.

Kaeding said the clinic’s typical patient is over 60 years and experiences chronic pain that keeps him from sleeping well. Eighty percent of the clinic’s patients, he said, benefit from its treatments for arthritis, back pain, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, headaches, sciatica and cancer among other conditions.

The New Hope officer said that a large percentage of people today suffer from ongoing joint pain. He noted thin and athletic people may overuse their joints, while those who are obese stress their joints with extra weight. People who sit at desks often suffer from spinal issues. Even college athletes who experience no injuries may suffer pain later in life from overworking their joints.

New Hope, Kaeding said, uses several different types of injections among its tools, including those that inject medication directly onto nerves. He also noted that another procedure, a nerve ablation, can stop the nerves from sending out pain signals. He also spoke of epidurals for individuals with Shingles and late-in-life pain assistance for cancer patients.

Kaeding reiterated that most of the clinic’s patients are older. Unless there’s been a traumatic injury, he said it’s unusual for anyone under 40 to have chronic pain and so they would screen younger patients carefully.

For older patients, he said, they usually have to recognize that they won’t be completely pain free and that helping them improve their quality of life to the point of being able to get a good night’s sleep is a complex matter.

That’s one of the reasons, Kaeding said, it’s often not practical for primary care physicians to address harder-to-treat chronic pain. Most state medical boards, he said, require doctors to document how a patient is progressing. Physicians will often refer patients to pain specialists when they’ve reached a level of care they’re no longer comfortable providing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer guidelines to help physicians make that decision, he said.

New Hope now features a primary care practice in Gastonia, N.C., and the pain management clinic in Elkin, which was opened in July.

Kaeding said that New Hope does plan to expand to Virginia, but would only plan to develop in Marion if the community “would like us to be there,” he said.

Tammy Pennington and her husband, Kenny, both Smyth County natives and current residents of Chilhowie, see a need for a chronic pain management clinic.

Tammy said when she was working in such a clinic in Woodlawn, patients would drive from Whitetop, Marion, Chilhowie and Rural Retreat seeking care. Sitting for that long a drive, she said, only aggravates stiffness and pain.

Pennington said the Marion clinic, if opened, would offer multiple treatments, including referrals to physical therapy, interventional medicines, referrals to chiropractic care and acupuncture, back braces and orthotics and other equipment. Each treatment, she said, complements others to give the greatest pain relief.

She strives to give her patients enough relief so that they can function well and have a better quality of life. On Friday, a bright sunny day, she imagined someone wanting to work in their flowerbed, but unable to because of joint pain.

Kenny, who said he would serve as office manager if the clinic comes to fruition, said, “We want to be a blessing to the community…. We’re here to try to help.”

Tammy said that’s how she came to work in pain management. She said the difference made in people’s lives. It’s rewarding, she said, to see patients’ physical and mental health improve with each visit.

Kenny said local physicians tell them that there’s a need for pain management. He said they speak of reaching a point where they can no longer help their patients and those patients will have to travel to seek care and often wait three to six months for an appointment.

During Monday evening’s Marion Town Council meeting, Bill Rush noted that a Special Use Permit would be required. He recommended the council refer the matter to the planning commission to fully explore.

Vice Mayor Jim Gates noted that the council will consider its action when and if New Hope completes the necessary paperwork and begins the process.

While the couple said they understand concerns about pain clinics, they said, “We’re part of the people. This community is near and dear to our hearts.

Kenny said Kaeding plans to attend the next town council meeting, Oct.15, to share information about the proposed clinic and to answer questions. They welcomed anyone interested in the project to attend.

Source

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