Last updated 11:21PM ET
December 14, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Congressman Salazar Hears Local Health Care Concerns
(2007-02-22)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: Efforts to address what some say is a looming health care crisis in Durango, LaPlata County and other parts of Southwest Colorado are picking up steam.
Valley Wide Health Service plans to cease operations in just five weeks, leaving almost 11-thousand residents without primary health care.
KSUT's Victor Locke has an update.

SALAZAR: WE ARE IN A HEALTH CARE CRISIS MODE ACROSS AMERICA, NOT JUST HERE IN DURANGO AND I KNOW WE HAVE TO ADDRESS THE IMMEDIATE PROBLEM WE HAVE IN DURANGO, WE'LL TRY TO REACH SOME SOLUTIONS.
Colorado Third District U.S. Congressman John Salazar spent an hour Wednesday with about 24 individuals, identified as health care stakeholders.
He was listening and questioning the group of community leaders, physicians, service providers and citizens, who worry what will happen when Valley Wide closes its doors on March 31st.
The Alamosa based Valley Wide says it can no longer afford to do business here.
Those present told Salazar low reimbursements for medicare and medicaid make it hard for providers, like Valley Wide to survive.
And a wide disparity in incomes disqualifies those providers from getting high reimbursements.
In addition, the rural nature of the area, and lack of providers in outlying communities like Bayfield and Ignacio result in transportation and other challenges for those in need of routine medical care.
The situation, they all say, will reach crisis proportions when Valley Wide leaves.
Salazar pledged to see how Washington can help address the crisis.
SALAZAR: IT WILL PROBABLY REST ON THE LOCAL AND STATE GOVERNMENT, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, IN THE NEAR TERM, WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO IS TO TRY AND FIGURE OUT A GRANT PROCESS WHERE WE CAN BRING SOME FEDERAL DOLLARS TO TRY AND HELP THROUGH THE SHORT TERM PART OF IT. AND I THINK IN THE LONG TERM WE HAVE TO START LOOKING AT UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE OR SOME OTHER.
Two local efforts to address health care concerns, proposed by a group calling itself the Primary Care Access Coalition and funded by 440-thousand dollars from Durango and the county, are already underway.
One of those efforts involves a clinic to be operated by Mercy Regional Medical Center.
Mercy CEO Kirk Dignum says that clinic could open in Valley Wide's present location the same day Valley Wide leaves.
DIGNUM: IT LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE A SUBLEASE GOING WITH VALLEYWIDE RIGHT NOW TO KEEP IT IN THE CURRENT LOCATION AND WE'RE LOOKING FOR SOME MID LEVEL PROVIDERS AND WE'RE TRYING TO HIRE SOME. AND SO WE'RE WORKING ON THAT. WE'RE TRYING TO DO THE TRANSITION THE DAY VALLEY WIDE LEAVES OUR COMMUNITY. WE'RE GOING TO TRY AND OPEN IT UP COTERMINUS WITH THAT DEPARTURE. WE'RE NOT THERE YET, BUT WE'RE REALLY WORKING HARD TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN.
Dignum says he's not concerned a seemless opening of the Mercy Clinic will lull the community into a sense of complacency, that the health care crisis has been solved.
DIGNUM: I DON'T THINK THIS IS GOING TO COME CLOSE TO SOLVING THE COMMUNITY NEED AND I THINK THERE'S GOING TO BE SO MANY PEOPLE WHO WILL BE UNABLE TO ACCESS PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIANS AND PROVIDERS THAT I DON'T THINK IT'S GOING TO COME CLOSE TO ADDRESSING ALL THOSE PEOPLE WHO CAN'T ACCESS PRIMARY CARE.
The other effort by the coalition involves hiring a consultant to come up with some long term reccomendations on local health care.
Durango Businessman Pat Murphy, who chairs the coalition, says they hope to hire the consultant by the end of March and have results not too long afterwards.
MURPHY: AND AFTER THAT WE WOULD HOPE THAT A THREE TO FOUR MONTH TIME FRAME WE WOULD BE ABLE TO PRESENT TO THE COMMUNITY A PLAN ON HOW WE GO FORWARD.
Most everyone attending Wednesday's brainstorm session agreed, it's going to take six months or more to come up with some long term local, state and federal answers to health care issues, and even longer to implement them.
From KSUT, Four Corner's Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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