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Last updated 2:10AM ET
December 16, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Health Crisis Cause, Solutions in Durango
(2007-03-28)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: Durango's Valley Wide Health Clinic closes its doors in three days.
The closure will leave ten to twelve thousand people without a primary care physician, creating what some say will be a health care crisis.
But a citizens group is making good on its promises to address the problem, as revealed during a forum last night.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports.


VICTOR: Before a standing room only crowd of about 125 people at the Durango Recreation Center, the League of Women Voters held a forum Tuesday night on health care.
On the panel, Valley Wide's Dr. Ellen Martin who's shepherding the clinic through its final days.
MARTIN: THE LAST TWO WEEKS HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT TIMES IN MY CAREER, BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE COME WITH QUESTIONS. AND WHEN YOU LOOK INTO THE FACE OF AN 80-YEAR OLD COUPLE WHO ARE PARTIALLY HOMEBOUND AND TELL THEM THAT I DON'T KNOW IF THE VISITING NURSE CAN COME BECAUSE YOU WON'T HAVE A DOCTOR, YOUR HEART JUST WANTS TO MELT.
Declining numbers of primary care physicians, and declining medicare/medicaid reimbursements for those who remain and Valley Wide, are just two of the reasons Valley Wide is leaving more than one year sooner than expected.
A group of citizens has been trying to come up with ways to fill in the health care gaps.
During his presentation as part of last night's panel, Pat Murphy who chairs the Primary Health Care Community Coalition announced they've hired hired a Boston Firm, John Snow, Inc. or JSI.
Murphy says the international consulting firm will begin work April 9th to develope a sustainable health care program for Durango.
MURPHY: VERY MUCH TO OUR LIKING, THOSE OF US WHO INTERVIEWED THEM, THEY HAVE A COLORADO PRESENCE AND A VERY VERY STRONG BACKGROUND IN RURAL HEALTH CARE, AND RURAL HEALTH CARE IN COLORADO.
Murphy says it will take JSI 4-6 months to complete its study.
It could take up to 18 months to implement those reccomendations.
In the interim, Mercy Hospital is targeting May 1st as the date to open a so called "stop gap clinic" at the soon to be vacated Valley Wide offices.
Mercy's Rick O'Block says the clinic will primarily be designed to help those without Primary Care Doctors, on medicare, in need of basic services such as prescriptions and minor tests.
O'BLOCK: IT'S GOING TO BE PRIMARILY APPOINTMENT BASED, SO PEOPLE NEED TO CALL IN TO GET AN APPOINTMENT, WE'RE NOT AN URGENT CARE OFFICE. WE'RE NOT GOING TO BE SEEING ACUTE SAME DAY CARE ILLNESSES, COUGHS, SORE THROATS, EAR ACHES, THINGS LIKE THAT.
It will operate limited hours, Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm.
The cost of the consultant and part of the clinics expenses are being funded jointly by the city and county to the tune of 440-thousand dollars.
Panelists agreed during the forum, it's likely a long term solution will cost much more and must integrate all types of health care.
Bern Heath, Director of the Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center, cited numerous studies supported an integrated system.
HEATH: A SOLUTION THAT INTEGRATES PRIMARY CARE NOT ONLY WITH BEHAVIORAL HEALTH BUT WITH PUBLIC HEALTH, WITH PREVENTION, WITH ADULT AND CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES AND WITH ALL OTHER COMMUNITY RESOURCES, IMPROVES HEALTH OUTCOMES, AND IT IMPROVES LIFE EXPECTANCY AND QUALITY OF LIFE.
Several members of the public posed questions to the panelists near the end of the two hour forum.
Most questioned what caused the crisis we're now facing, who should pay to fix it, whether it's a local problem or should we wait for a federal fix.
The answer to that last one from panel members was a resounding no, Valley Wide's Ellen Martin declaring:
MARTIN: IF WE WAIT FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO FIX THIS PROBLEM, MAYBE A THIRD OF US WON'T BE HERE ANY MORE BECAUSE WE ARE YEARS, IF NOT MILLENIA AWAY FROM THAT HAPPENING. I CAN TELL YOU THAT WE NEED TO TAKE THIS MATTER INTO OUR OWN HANDS.
The forum ended with an admonishment from Murphy and others to the public, to let go of the past and work as a community for the future.
From KSUT, Four Corner's Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.

If you have questions about the Mercy Clinic proposed to open May 1st, you can call 764-5011.
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