The Saratoga Sun -

NVPMC critical to long-term care

New critical care hospital includes long-term care facility


October 21, 2020

Long-term care facilities — especially those in rural areas — have struggled for some time because they often have trouble attracting workers. Although vital to many rural communities, stand-alone long-term care facilities are rarely profitable, and a global pandemic has only made things worse.

In a recent letter to the Platte Valley Healthcare Project (PVHP), John and Phyllis Smith of Encampment included a donation to the hospital noting they felt that future promotion should focus on the “benefits that will come to the residents of the Valley by having the Care Center component incorporated into the business model as well as the physical building with the medical clinic. It is especially the long-term feature that attracts us to this project.”

Although she has long held an interest in healthcare as a public initiative, Sonja Collamer, a member of the PVHP board, also feels building long-term care in as part of the North Platte Valley Medical Center (NPVMC) is an underappreciated feature of the new facility. Her husband, Dr. John Collamer, who served the area as a veterinarian for many years, has lived at the Saratoga Care Center since June 2015. Shortly prior to his coming to live there, she said the facility was on the verge of collapse.

“The center was in terrible shape financially,” she said, “and the people running it just walked away and left the staff holding the bag.”

Unwilling to just abandon their patients, the staff stayed, she said, and the community rallied behind them, getting government officials at all levels, including the governor, to lend a hand. Eventually an agreement was reached with Healthcare Management Systems (HMS) to oversee the facility with additional funds provided by the Corbett Medical Foundation.

The Saratoga Care Center has operated this way ever since, but Collamer says all agree the arrangement is unsustainable.

“If we didn’t have this opportunity with the Critical Care Hospital, I’m not sure what we would have done,” she said. “The hospital was the only way to save it.”

When the existing facility was first built in the 1970s, Collamer said, “their heart was in the right place, but now it is seriously outdated.”

“The bathrooms are too small for a wheelchair and some of the rooms still share a bathroom,” she said. “The people who work there have a tremendous compassion for the patients but this kind of work is hard physically and even dangerous, and the facility we have is inadequate.”

She said the goal had been to “keep it viable” until the outcome of the USDA loan to build NPVMC was determined.

The 20 rooms dedicated to long-term care at the new hospital will each have a bathroom and shower and none of them will be shared. Collamer said some of the rooms will be outfitted with a built-in, ceiling-mounted lift for patients who need help transferring between bed, chair and toilet.

What will make this long-term care facility different and better than the vast majority of its rural competitors, Collamer said, “is you can roll down the hall and you’re in the hospital.” In the past, she said, patients had to be taken by ambulance to a hospital even for relatively simple procedures. With the new hospital, procedures like x-ray and other imaging, lab work and physical therapy become easy and convenient, she said.

“There’s no question that having long-term care in the new hospital will be a huge care improvement for our loved ones in the Valley,” Collamer said. “There are a lot of small towns in the West that will be envious of what we will have.”


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