The Saratoga Sun -

The future of local healthcare and your part in it

 

April 24, 2019



We at the Saratoga Sun would like to applaud the Healthcare Sustainability Project Subcommittee (HSPS) for their efforts in trying to usher in a workable healthcare system. It is not just that the group is trying to bring a better medical facility and high quality doctors, nurses and staff to the Valley, it is the way they have gone about it.

Representation

The HSPS has done a good job representing the entire Valley in choosing their members. Leslie McLinskey is on the subcommittee to represent the Riverside/Encampment part of the Valley and the other more Saratoga-centric members come from diverse age and occupational groups. Members of that side include former state representative Teense Willford, former governor’s appointee to the State Board of Medicine Sonja Collamer and local businessmen George Haigh and Will Faust. The Saratoga Sun feels collecting this kind of representative group was the first step in the right direction.

Getting Your Thoughts

The group has gone out of their way to present information to the public and gain your perspective.

Public meetings have been held monthly to exchange possible plans and gather public input on the future of healthcare in this end of the county. The HSPS has taken the time, not just to present the possibility of a medical facility tailored to our area, but to get public input on the process.

Questions have been asked by those in attendance at the public meetings and those questions have been answered consistently. A web site (www.plattevalleythealthcare.org) has been established to help disseminate information on the project and a healthcare questionnaire is available on that website to gain further public input.

Not only has the HSPS put the survey online, the group has gone so far as to put those questionnaires around the Valley in self-addressed and pre-stamped envelopes.

If you have a strong opinion and have not expressed it at one of the open meetings held at 5:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at the Platte Valley Community Center (PVCC) or taken the time to fill out the anonymous survey—you have no one to blame but yourself.

The upside to this is that there is still time.

The survey will be online until Friday, April 26 and you can still pick up the paper copies at local town halls, the clinic or even the Saratoga Sun office.

You can show up to one of the upcoming meetings and add your two cents. The next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25 at the Encampment Opera House and the one after that is at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8 at the PVCC.

Outside Information

The HSPS has brought in several different outside speakers to provide insight into the dilemma that our current state of healthcare faces and possible solutions.

First, the HSPS has had participation from the current management of both the Platte Valley Clinic and Saratoga Care Center. Both Karl Rude, president of Health Management Services (HMS), and Mark Pesognelli, Administrator at the Saratoga Care Center, have been consistently present at the meetings to provide updates on the clinic and nursing home and answer questions put to them.

The subcommittee has also brought in several different sources of information in the form of government and business representatives.

Community Programs Director for the Wyoming branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Lorraine Werner, was on hand at one of the meetings to inform attendees that if the area wanted a newer and better equipped medical facility, designated a Critical Access Hospital (CAH), the USDA would fund it in the form of a low interest loan.

The HSPS also brought in representatives from BKD at another meeting. BKD is an accounting firm that consults on a wide range of healthcare with experience ranging from academic medical centers to rural health clinics. BKD Partner Joe Watt and Director Eric Lopato were on hand at the Feb. 13 meeting to tell of their experiences in dealing with rural healthcare and the conclusions of these projects. The pair told of the feasibility study the HSPS had hired them to begin and what that entails in determining if a tailored medical facility was even a possibility.

The HSPS has also brought back information from CAHs that have been completed in the general region. The medical facilities visited were situated in towns with a similar demographic and feel—and the information gained from this field trip was given at the March 27 meeting at the PVCC. Information from that trip, including a slide show, is also available on the Platte Valley healthcare website mentioned above.

Positives in the Plan

Unfortunately, the designation for the new medical facility being conceived is CAH. It seems the word “hospital” in this USDA designation carries connotations of a monstrous building for some people. What it really means to the population of this area is a new medical facility tailored to our wants and needs.

What the CAH is envisioned to become is a 25-room facility with 20-22 of those rooms being dedicated to long-term care (the function the Saratoga Care Center provides now, but with all private rooms) and the other five rooms being for shorter term stays or acute care.

Some of the demands of the CAH designation is that the center provides 24-hour emergency care and has a full-time physician staff and onsite laboratory.

Other features include a physical therapy area, a visiting specialist room, a radiology room and a kitchen/cafeteria.

The Saratoga Sun feels these are all things the community could use.

Dollars and Jobs

If accomplished, a USDA loan will run through one of our local financial institutions. This kind of guaranteed loan would be a boost to our local economy.

Building a CAH has also been shown to bring 1.3 jobs to the area for every position hired to work at the center, so not only does the community gain in having professionals come to our community, it gains in their attendant families and support workers.

Forward or Way Back

If you had attended the last meeting, you would be aware of how close we are to losing our nursing home. The Saratoga Care Center has been subsidized by HMS to the tune of about $750,000 over the last three years.

The Platte Valley Clinic simply does not have the financial resources to bring in a full time doctor even with the Corbett Medical Foundation giving $200,000 to $300,000 thousand a year to help run the clinic.

New funding sources to hire physicians are available for a CAH, though.

Rural healthcare is a priority for both the USDA and Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS). It is such a goal for these agencies that the USDA will, as mentioned previously, provide a loan for the construction of a small hospital—and CMS will provide up to 70 percent of the funds needed to operate that facility.

Building the facility also means different funding avenues for hiring full-time doctors and a complimentary staff. It is also easier to hire professionals when you have a brand new facility.

The options seem simple—either support the new facility and gain doctors, 24-hour emergency service and attendant laboratory and radiology services—or lose our nursing home and continue our clinic with a lesser staff.

A Worthwhile Endeavor

The Saratoga Sun feels the completion of a CAH would be beneficial to our community in many ways and we ask you to come and participate in the discussion either by coming to the open meetings or by simply filling out the anonymous survey.

 

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