New clinic bridges gap for Northport residents

NORTHPORT – Some people lose their jobs and retreat to other occupations or new cities. Mark Eichenlaub is taking a different path.

When the physician assistant of 27 years lost his job at Leelanau Memorial Health Center that closed Dec. 31, he created a new opportunity for himself and his community.

Eichenlaub opened his own health care clinic in late January. The Northport Medical Clinic will pick up where the Leelanau Memorial Health Center left off, bridging the care gap for Northport residents.

His commitment to his profession and the Northport community crystallized during the months leading to the hospital's closing.

"It forced me to look at my options, for working and living here, and I wasn't willing to give up either," Eichenlaub said.

Hospital administrators repeatedly cited low numbers for emergency services as the chief reason for closing its doors, Eichenlaub said. But what people really need here, he found during a decade of service to the area, is the walk-in, primary care.

"We saw 5,000 people a year who needed day-to-day services from the hospital," Eichenlaub said. "So we're going to provide that."

Marty Scott, a fifth-generation Northport resident, has already transferred his medical records and his wife's to Eichenlaub.

"Other residents and I are supporting the clinic with enthusiasm," Scott said. "Without it, we'd have to go to Suttons Bay for primary care, and it's a matter of supporting who we have here in our community. It's a great service to all of us," he added.

Through numerous donations, large and small, and private funding, the clinic will soon open its doors at 301 Mill Street, pending renovations to its office space.

"What the donations alone tell me is that there is heart and soul in this community, and that residents want access to medical care," Eichenlaub said.

The clinic will provide primary care for daily medical treatment, such as the management of diabetes and depression, and will provide urgent care for minor lacerations, infections and other non-emergency medical conditions, Eichenlaub said.

The clinic staff will include Eichenlaub, Pat McMahon-Eichenlaub, RN, and Diane Lantini, office manager, and will expand as demand for services grows. Supervising physicians will be Drs. Thomas Lammy and Philip Siemer at the Evergreen Center in Suttons Bay. Emergency incidents will be immediately referred to Munson.

Eichenlaub estimates treating 10-15 patients per day initially, but feels confident they can treat 20 patients a day or more as vacation seasons begins, he said.

Northport Medical Clinic hours will be 8-6 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; 8-noon Thursday; 8-5 Friday; and 9-1 Saturday.

Reach Eichenlaub at 231-883-6805. BN