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Peninsula Community Health Services opens eye clinic

resized eye cinic.jpeg
Sabine Poux
/
KDLL
Optician Brandon Kellum, optometrist April Walgenbach and optometric technician Sarah Carson staff the new PCHS eye clinic in Soldotna.

There’s a lot you can tell from a person’s eyes. Soldotna optometrist April Walgenbach said eyes can be used to diagnose almost 300 different illnesses, including diabetes.

But she said there’s been more demand for eye care services on the central Kenai Peninsula than appointments available.

“There are some great optometrists locally," she said. "We’re just lacking in the amount. And so people were having to wait months, sometimes, to get in and to be seen. And especially those that didn’t have insurance or patients that had Medicaid — it was harder to be seen.”

That shortage is one thing Peninsula Community Health Services is trying to address with its new eye clinic — the newest extension of services for the community health center.

Walgenbach, who was born and raised in Soldotna, was working with PCHS since October to get the clinic up and running this spring in what used to be a conference room at the center's Soldotna location.

The new eye clinic has a full gamut of eye-related health care services, from exams to glasses fittings.

Medical and vision coverage are often separate, which Walgenbach says can be a challenge for people in need of eye care. But the clinic — like all of PCHS — accepts Medicare and Medicaid, as well as most other insurance. There’s also a sliding fee scale for people who qualify.

Clinic optician Brandon Kellum said the frames the clinic sells also come at many price points. There are shelves and shelves of options in the main room of the clinic.

“So someone who can’t afford to do $500, $600 on a set of glasses, they can actually come in and get frames and lenses that start at $130 and go up from there," he said.

Walgenbach said it’s important that patients can access all sorts of health care services in one building — including medical, dental and behavioral care.

Now, eye care is part of that mix, too.

“Patients have been so excited that they don’t have to see their primary care downstairs and get a referral and set up travel to another clinic, or travel to Anchorage," Walgenbach said. "It’s all right here.”

She said the clinic is booking out an average of 10 days at the moment, but leaves room for same-day emergency appointments, as well.

Learn more at pchsak.org/eye-care

Sabine Poux is the news director at KDLL. Originally from New York, she's lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont, where she fell in love with local news. She covers all things central peninsula but is especially interested in stories related to energy and fishing. She'd love to hear your ideas at spoux@kdll.org.
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