Solandt clinic in danger

Without more patients, Hayden service could be lost

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From blood work and vaccinations to pediatric care and sports physicals, the Solandt Medical Clinic on Hospital Hill provides the medical services to the Hayden community so that residents don't have to drive to Steamboat Springs or Craig for doctor appointments.

But if more residents don't start using the clinic, they might lose the doctors and nurses who provide that convenient care.

"I think if we lose it, it's forever gone," Solandt board president Kathy Hockin said about the clinic, in the old hospital building, 150 Jackson Ave.

Built in the early 20th century, the beige brick building was the first hospital in Routt County and the only hospital between Denver and Salt Lake City for many years, Hockin said.

The building has housed a medical clinic since the hospital closed in the late 1960s. For about 10 years, three Steamboat Springs medical offices have worked together to send doctors and nurses to the clinic to provide Hayden residents medical care five days a week.

"These three practices have worked phenomenally well together. ... They compete with each other, but when it comes to Hayden, they don't let that get in the way," Hockin said, emphasizing that the offices cooperate not only in caring for patients, but in keeping supplies stocked and sharing the costs of a full-time receptionist and rent.

The five-member Solandt board, which does not manage the clinic but is responsible for making sure Hayden has medical care, receives a small tax used for maintaining the building and grounds, she said.

Until about three weeks ago, three doctors visited the clinic weekly: Dr. Rosanne Iverson of Steamboat Springs Family Medicine on Mondays, Dr. Louise Thielen of Steamboat Medical Group on Tuesdays and Fridays, and Lisa Harner of Yampa Valley Medical Association on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Because of cost issues, Yampa Valley Medical Association recently decided to send two physician's assistants to the Hayden clinic in place of Harner, Hockin said.

Steamboat Medical Group, which pulled out of its partnership with the South Routt Medical Center in June for similar reasons, may have to reconsider its presence at the Solandt clinic if patient numbers don't increase by the end of the winter -- typically clinics' busiest season, Thielen said.

"The problem is ... overhead costs are climbing higher than reimbursement," said Thielen, who treats about 20 to 25 patients a week in Hayden compared with about 30 patients a day at her Steamboat office.

"We love the patient clientele here. ... We'd hate to lose that," she said.

Although patient numbers at Solandt aren't dropping, they've remained steady in the past 10 years, Thielen said.

When she started, it wasn't unusual for Craig residents to drive to Hayden for medical care. But with more and better providers in Craig, Solandt may have fewer Craig patients, which could account for some lack of growth at the Hayden clinic, Thielen said.

Not getting the word out about services at the clinic could be another reason for stagnant patient numbers, Hockin and nurse Debbie Doolin said.

"I'm wondering if some new people even know we are here," said Doolin, a nurse with Steamboat Medical Group.

In addition to regular health care exams, Solandt's services include evaluations and testing for minor illnesses such as flu and strep throat, well-woman exams, newborn exams, lab work, orthopedic care, treatment for minor injuries and vaccinations.

The clinic had about 1,800 flu shots left Friday, Hockin said.

"We think it's a lack of communication more than anything because we have excellent care," she said.

The Solandt Medical Clinic is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon Fridays. For appointments or information, call 276-4270.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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