Physician assistant Christine Rue, left, doctors Paula Spencer and Rashanda Brown, and physician assistant Alyssa Schmidt, front, are the staff of the new South Salem Primary Care clinic (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

When two of Salem’s largest medical providers merged last fall, a handful of local doctors decided on a change themselves.

Doctors Rashanda Brown and Paula Spencer recently joined Christine Rue and Alyssa Schmidt, both physician assistants, to open South Salem Primary Care, a new primary care clinic at Skyline Road and Kuebler Boulevard.

“This is a pretty unique situation. Clinics don’t just start anymore,” Schmidt said.

The new clinic is part of Praxis Medical Group, a company focused on primary care across Oregon. The company’s first clinic in the Bend area opened in the early 2000s, and it is now based in Pendleton.

The staff previously worked for WVP Medical Group, a Salem-based company with six primary care clinics in Marion and Polk counties.

Salem Health bought WVP last fall and will continue operating those clinics. There were no layoffs as a result of the acquisition, Salem Health spokesman Elijah Penner said, and 189 WVP employees now work for Salem Health.

“Anytime you have a seminal event like that it’s important to raise your hand and communicate that there’s other options for the community,” said Dan McCarthy, regional administrator for Praxis Health in central Oregon.

Praxis had been eyeing Salem and watching for available medical space, McCarthy said. The company closed on the building in December, county property records show.

“There’s not a lot of options out there. We have a building that we can grow into. We wanted something that had a certain look and feel … that our employees felt proud to work in,” he said.

The office has a fireplace in the waiting room and a lab. About half the first floor is still unused, giving the clinic room to expand.

South Salem Primary Care is a new clinic on Skyline Road South, opened by Pendleton-based Praxis Medical Group (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Patients check in using an iPad that automatically feeds information into their chart, saving time transcribing paper forms.

Brown said they plan to add imaging services and will consider other things as the clinic grows. For now, the four employees expect they can accommodate several thousand patients.

For specialty care, the clinic will refer patients to other providers, she said.

Many patients have followed them from their prior clinics.

“They’re excited we’re not retiring,” Brown said.

Spencer said the new clinic lets her continue working independently, something she’s valued over her 26-year career as a doctor.

The days when doctors ran their own clinics as small business owners are largely past, in part because few medical school graduates want to take on the financial risk while paying off substantial school debt.

But in a smaller clinic, the staff say they’ve been able to weigh in on treatment protocols and what patient visits should look like.

“We’ve had a lot of input,” Schmidt said.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.