The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Local clinic makes room for change


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Proprietor Brent Ursel and technician Susan Porter show off Glacier Family Medicine's brand new state-of-the-art ultrasound equipment. The acquisition was part of a recent expansion and upgrade of the family medical clinic's radiology department.

(Correction: The medical clinic which Providence Alaska operates in Seward will close its doors on Feb. 14, per the request of the City and the SCHC Board of Directors.)

While Providence Seward turns over its medical clinic to be rebooted by a new local nonprofit, Sewardites are taking a new look at Glacier Family Medicine. The long-time family business is seeing increased interest during the transition. At the full service medical clinic at the corner of the Seward Highway and Exit Glacier Road, owner and Physician Assistant Brent Ursel says that now is an excellent time for patients to try them out.

He, along with his staff, have noticed more traffic above and beyond the steady growth the practice has enjoyed over the past 12 years. However, Ursel points out that recent additions of equipment, staff and services are bound to attract new patients. He points to the upgrades to GFM's radiology department including brand new advanced ultrasound capabilities as an attractive local alternative. The expansion was topped off with the hire of long time Providence Seward radiology technican Susan Porter.

Ursel says that his family practice provides some urgent care along with minor surgery and the basics such as prenatal, baby, child, occupational medicine, physicals, drug testing, laceration repair and referrals to specialists. He doesn't see much difference in the services available at GFM and the city-owned clinic which closes Friday, Feb. 14. And, while the new community clinic is getting on its feet facing inevitable growing pains and staffing challenges, Ursel thinks that his clinic has more to offer.

Ursel is familiar with growing pains. In 2002, he moved to Seward from McGrath with his wife and son. The family really liked Seward and soon settled into a new purchased home. With a job lined up at Providence Seward Medical & Care Clinic, Ursel started work there but was soon displaced when corporate administrators decided to reallocate resources. They laid off several people and then hired other positions.

"We'd just got here, just bought a house, just unpacked. No one wanted to move again," Ursel says. The family had a choice to make.

The choice was to go into private practice. Since then the footprint of the clinic at Walaska Business Center had grown, suite by suite. As neighboring areas in the office complex have become available, GFM has swallowed them up. There were tough decisions along the way. Ursel ended up as a single father along with the challenge of managing a small business and making ends meet.

His observation is that you have to want to live in Seward and it's not for everybody. However, Ursel is rather disenchanted with the way this winter is going. "If I wanted rain in January, I would've taken that job in Kodiak 25 years ago," he says. Not that he doesn't enjoy the other season. Ursel has involved in Seward's Little League organization ever since moving to Seward, having coached for going on 12 years.

As far as local medical concerns go, Ursel warns that the flu season hasn't peaked yet. "We're either gonna skate through here, or we will get hit within the next month," he predicts. The folks who were hit hard by the bug were not vaccinated and rapidly got extremely sick. Locally, one patient was hospitalized. Ursel says that if the flu is caught within 48 hours, he can provide antiviral therapy which will shorten the duration and severity of the flu. With shots pretty much all gone in the area, that's a flu victims best option, he says.

He emphasizes that Glacier Family Medicine welcomes new patients and accepts all major forms of health care insurance including Medicare, workman's compensation and auto insurance.


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