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Last updated 1:56PM ET
December 14, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
New Health Care Plan Proposed for La Plata County
(2007-01-10)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: There's a possibility that after March 31st, thousands of La Plata County and Durango residents will be without a primary care physician.
They would have no one to re-authorize necessary prescriptions, treat a sore throat or do a yearly physical.
A nearly one half million dollar plan is now being proposed to address what some say is a pending health crisis in this community.
And taxpayers, who defeated a proposal for a Health Services District tax last May are being asked to fund it.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports on what's proving to be the latter half of a "pay me now or pay me later" predicament.


MURPHY: IT'S A SITUATION THAT IS, IN MY MIND, ALL THE WAY DOWN TO EVERY INDIVIDUAL IN THE COMMUNITY. IT'S INESCAPABLE.
VICTOR: Businessman Pat Murphy is one member of a group in Durango calling itself the Primary Health Care Community Coalition.
The group formed in the wake of the Health Services District defeat last Spring, to try and come up with a new proposal to improve delivery of health care, especially for medicare and medicaid patients.
Defeat of that district is one reason Valley Wide Health Services says it will close its doors March 31st.
Valley Wide's closing will leave anywhere from 8 thousand to 12 thousand people without primary care physicians.
MURPHY: THERE IS NO SINGLE ENTITY, WITHIN THE COMMUNITY IN MY MIND, THAT HAS THE ABILITY TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM.
Murphy and the Coalition are proposing a three step approach to address the problem and provide services, so Valley Wide's former patients and others don't flood emergency rooms or worse, go without needed medical care.
They detailed their plan during a joint study session of Durango City Councilors and La Plata County Commissioners Tuesday, a meeting attended by about 60-medical providers, interested residents and others.
The first step of their plan involves creating what they call a Stop Gap Clinic for one year at Mercy Regional Medical Center.
Mercy CEO Kirk Dignum cautions would provide basic services.
DIGNUM: IT'S NOT GOING TO COME CLOSE TO MEETING THE NEED OF OUR COMMUNITY OR THE FUTURE GROWTH NEEDS FOR MEDICARE IN OUR COMMUNITY, SO, BUT WHAT WE HOPE BY HAVING A STOP GAP IS THAT IT COULD BE THE CATALYST TO BUILD SOMETHING OFF THAT, AND NUMBER TWO HOPEFULLY IT WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF THE MEDICARE AND THE FRAIL ELDERLY WHO ABSOLUTELY HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE RIGHT NOW.
Patient fees and in-kind services from Mercy would pay for about half the clinics estimated annual cost of 554-thousand dollars.
The group is asking city and county government to pledge up to 290-thousand dollars in funding to make up the shortfall.
The second step, Murphy says, would be to hire an outside consultant to develop in 3-to-6 months, a new plan to improve health care delivery.
MURPHY: HOPEFULLY WE WOULD COME OUT OF THIS WITH A PRIMARY CARE ACCESS, PRIMARY CARE PROGRAM THAT WOULD BE UNIQUE AND TAYLORED TO THE NEEDS OF PEOPLE WITHIN THIS COMMUNITY.
The consultant would cost 100-to-150 thousand dollars.
Again, the group wants the city and county to fund the cost.
Step three would involve implementing the consultants recommendations, whatever they are.
The total cost of the first two steps could be as high as 440-thousand dollars to the city, county, and perhaps Bayfield and Ignacio as well.
It would be up to the government entities to decide how much each pays.
But with Valley Wide's March 31st closing looming on the horizon, government officials were urged to act quickly.
County Manager Michael Scannell says he could have proposals for funding before the commissioners by month's end.
SCANNELL: THIS HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS A CRISIS AND I THINK IT'S EVERY BIT OF THAT, AND I THINK WE HAVE TO MOVE QUICKLY.
Durango City Manager Bob Ledger agreed council could act quickly, if it wishes.
Murphy, who says it's virtually impossible to resolve the crisis without city and county help, is cautiously optimistic with what he heard.
MURPHY: AS FAR AS JUMPING TO THE CONCLUSION THAT IT'S PRE-ORDAINED, I WOULDN'T GO THAT FAR, BUT CERTAINLY I THINK IT'S WELL ON THEIR RADAR SCREEN NOW AND SOMETHING THAT THEY'RE VERY RECEPTIVE TO PROVIDING THE SERVICES FOR THEIR CONSTITUENTS.
City Councilors could act on some sort of funding as soon as next Tuesday.
County Commissioners could decide on January 23rd.
One member of the audience, Valley Wide physician Dr. Luke Casias summed up the problem saying, without their support, the whole health care house of cards in La Plata County, could collapse.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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