The Saratoga Sun -

Memorial Hospital of Carbon County to build clinic in Saratoga

Hospital to purchase property across from Valley Foods, Shepard Construction selected as general contractor

 

Amanda Shepherd

A sign on the Platte Valley Ranch Supply building announces the arrival of the MHCC Health Center - Platte Valley Clinic.

Nearly a year after their initial announcement and two false starts, Memorial Hospital of Carbon County (MHCC) appears to be moving forward with their intentions of establishing a clinic in the Platte Valley. That progress was announced via a Facebook Livestream held by MHCC on June 18 at the Platte Valley Community Center (PVCC).

Since July 2019, when the MHCC Board of Trustees first announced their plan, the organization had publicly discussed two potential properties for the clinic. One had been property owned by the Town of Saratoga (see "Medical debate continues" on page 1 of the November 27, 2019 Saratoga Sun) and another had been property owned by John and Pam Hornbeck (see "MHCC moving forward with clinic" on page 20 of the January 22 Saratoga Sun).

"We're excited to be able to announce what we're doing for the Platte Valley and the growth and the opportunity that we're being able to help take care of some of the residents of Carbon County. The organization has made a lot of focus on taking care of people," said CEO Ken Harman on June 18. "Our mission and our vision and our entire purpose is focused around, 'What can we be doing to better take care of residents in Carbon County?'"

During the livestream, Harman announced that MHCC was in the process of purchasing the Platte Valley Ranch Supply building. The property, according to data from the Carbon County Assessor's Office website, is currently owned by Saratoga Properties, LLC and is located along Wyoming Highway 130.

As public discussions took place in regards to the MHCC Saratoga clinic over the past year, one of the concerns expressed by residents had been the availability of a doctor. In addition to announcing the location for the clinic, Harman also introduced Dr. Chris Williams, who was hired by MHCC to work at the clinic on a daily basis.

"I have been practicing family medicine for approximately 20 years. I spent the vast majority of that time in rural situations and love to practice relationship-based medicine that we can do in small locations and towns," said Williams. "My family and I are thrilled to be able to join this wonderful team here in Saratoga and the Platte Valley."

Joining Williams at the clinic, albeit on a part-time basis, would be Pattie Shue, pediatric nurse practitioner; Jen Wagy, family nurse practitioner; and Bob Keel, physician assistant. Shue, Wagy and Keel would be splitting their time between Saratoga and Rawlins to provide services in both towns.

"When we talked as an organization and talked at the board, the decision was made that we really needed to focus on taking care of the needs of the residents here. Rather than bringing just a person here or rather than having one, we looked at, instead, how can we provide a complement of services that are going to enable us to meet more needs of the community," Harman said. 

It was also announced that joining Williams on the day-to-day operations of the clinic would be Valley resident Lacy Jo Mowry.

"She is an absolutely wonderful individual who is a long-term resident here. She will be ... the person behind the scenes making sure that everything happens while these guys do all the magic," said Harman.

In terms of the clinic itself, Harman stated that the architect work from MOA Architecture would be finished in the first part of August. While MHCC was still expecting bids from contractors on June 18, it was announced on July 1 that the Board of Trustees had selected Shepard Construction, Inc. of Rawlins.

"We are pleased to announce the selection of Shepard Construction, Inc. as the General Contractor for the MHCC Health Center-Platte Valley. Shepard was chosen for their proven track record for quality work and knowledge and understanding of local needs," said MHCC Board of Trustees Chair Rod Waeckerlin in the July 1 press release.

While the term clinic had been used for the building, in both the press release and in MHCC Board of Trustees minutes the term health center had been used as well. During the June 18 presentation, the Saratoga Sun asked for some clarification on what Valley residents should expect.

"What we're talking about is more than just a simple doctor's office but it certainly is not a hospital. There's already an organization that's having those discussions," Harman said. "What we're talking about is putting together a service that will be able to take care of people-not just on their primary care needs but also in some of their specialty care needs-to be able to have a simple x-ray procedure done there, to be able to have lab services provided there."

Throughout the approximately one hour presentation, discussion was guided around the critical access hospital being pursued by the Platte Valley Healthcare Project. Despite Harman's preface at the beginning of the panel that all questions about other services would not be answered, occasional discussion of services touched on the other organization.

When asked if there was concern from MHCC about providing a duplication of services, Harman stated that he wasn't "losing any sleep" over the possibility and did not see it as competition between the two potential providers.

"I look at Rawlins as an example. In Rawlins, the hospital owns a wonderful family practice clinic, we have an urgent care with a wonderful nurse practitioner who is independent, we have Dr. (Charles) Young who has an independent practice, there's another independent nurse practitioner in town. To me, those things are good. I believe all people should have an opportunity to have choice and determine who they want to go to and the relationship they have," said Harman. "I'm not worried about the competition because I don't perceive what we're doing as competition. I look for collaboration. When I sat down with the group that is putting together the other services in town, I was absolutely clear to them that we are willing to-if they do build it-collaboratively work with them."

Initial services that are expected to be provided at the MHCC Health Center-Platte Valley include pediatrics, family practice, orthopedics, general surgery, obstetrics and physical therapy. 

 

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