The Village Doctor: Better health prescribed for South Whidbey

After months of construction, Dr. Annastasia Kovscek will trade in paint brushes and tools for her stethoscope and will begin seeing patients Wednesday, May 22.

After months of construction, Dr. Annastasia Kovscek will trade in paint brushes and tools for her stethoscope and will begin seeing patients Wednesday, May 22.

It’s been almost three years since Langley Clinic closed its doors, but the days of having no medical care in Langley are over. Kovscek and nurse practitioner Mary Bolles will open Water’s Edge health and wellness practice in Langley Village on Second Street. The new medical team will see patients from infants to seniors. They have a background in pediatrics and women’s health, but have also worked in many other medical settings including urgent care.

The Pennsylvania-born, 37-year-old Kovscek moved with her husband, Joseph Sendek, to their Third Street home in April 2011.

“The truth is we moved to the island for love, looking for a place to settle. I was here for two weeks and didn’t want to leave,” she recalled. As she met her new neighbors and other Langley residents, a theme emerged in conversations.

“They would say ‘Do you know, we really need a doctor here,’” Kovscek said.

It got her thinking and Kovscek did the research.

“Just looking at the basic numbers — patient to doctors — on South Whidbey, we’re underserved,” she said. “We’re really serving a need in the community.”

However, Water’s Edge will face the same challenges many small health care providers encounter.

“We plan to stay sustainable,” she said. That’s why, she explained, Bolles and she will start out with a team of four to keep overhead cost low.

She also said while she accepts all major insurance, as well as Medicare, the office has to find a balance as programs such as Medicare are a strain on small operations.

“We accept Medicare, but we can only accept some,” she said.

Kovscek takes an integrated, holistic approach to medicine and is likely to recommend a nutritional change or change in routine rather than prescribing a pill.

“I see food as medicine. I see supplements as medicine,” she said.

That said, if medical intervention is needed, Kovscek does not hesitate.

The key to healing, however, is getting to know patients, she said.

“Knowing your patients — that’s where healing comes,” Kovscek explained. “It’s about meeting you where you are at. It’s easy to look at people cookie cutter, recipe-style, but each person is different.”

She puts great emphasis on wellness and believes healing can happen even if the medical diagnosis appears bleak.

“I hold the belief that healing can happen when something is not ‘curable,’” she said.

For Langley, the return of a doctor is a great achievement. Water’s Edge is filling a void that has existed since Whidbey General Hospital’s closure of the Langley Clinic in October 2010.

City Councilman Hal Seligson has been an outspoken proponent of bringing a doctor or nurse practitioner back to Langley and fought for keeping the pharmacy in town when Linds moved to Freeland in 2009.

“It’s a good sign,” Seligson said. “It’s been a long time in coming. I’m very pleased to welcome Dr. Annastasia Kovscek to her new medical practice in Langley. I wish her great success in living her dream of being the village doctor.”

Kovscek has already built a reputation in town.

“I’m confident that through her expertise and empathetic view she’ll help sustain Langley as a vital community where we enjoy life and raise healthy families,” he said.

Kovscek is following in the footsteps of a group of doctors who encountered a community without a family practice in the 1970s, and made it work.

“The years Doug Allderdice and I spent providing medical care to the people of South Whidbey were some of the most rewarding of my professional career,” said Steve Shapiro, co-founder of the Langley Clinic that served Langley until 2010 in various versions.

“In those days there were no cell phones, no paramedics, no 911, no emergency department at the hospital. We dealt with minor injuries at our office in Langley, drove to Coupeville to see more serious emergencies and to visit our patients in the hospital, delivered babies at home, and developed lasting relationships with our patients,” Shapiro said. “Scientific and technological advances and the trend toward sub-specialization have changed much about medical practice; but getting the most from the health care system still rests on the foundation of decisions each individual makes with his or her primary care provider. Likewise, the health of a community is greatly enhanced when health care providers live and work there.”

Shapiro said he is delighted to welcome two new primary care practices to South Whidbey — Kovscek in Langley; and Cathy Robinson, PA, and her associates, Dr. Mark Duncan and Dr. Dan Fisher in Freeland.

“We hope they all find serving the South Whidbey community as satisfying as we did,” Shapiro said.