Medical center struggles

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The South Routt Medical Center is looking for new ways to keep its doors open.

At the end of February, Yampa Valley Medical Assoc-iates told the medical center's board of directors that it might have to pull out of their partnership by the end of this month because of the financial burden involved.

Yampa Valley Medical Assoc-iates estimated that it is losing about $1,000 a month through the partnership with the medical center, practice administrator Erik Sharp said.

Now, YVMA and the center's board are looking for options to make the clinic financially feasible, Sharp said.

"I think everybody involved agrees that it's a good service and it's an important part of Routt County that needs health care services," Sharp said. "We're all trying to work together to find the best way to do that."

YVMA provides a physician assistant and nurse two days a week, a receptionist on Monday, and it does all the required billing for the medical center. Dr. Dan Smilkstein worked at the center on Mondays, but he no longer will be involved because of the financial situation, Sharp said.

Also, YVMA pays $500 a month in rent for the building.

Steamboat Medical Group originally partnered with the South Routt Medical Center, but had to dissolve that partnership last April because of a reorganization. That's when Yampa Valley Medical Associates step-ped in.

Linda Long, president of the South Routt Medical Center Board of Directors, could not be reached for comment.

Options to keep the South Routt clinic going are being considered. There will be a meeting next week to discuss those options, with a focus on finding a long-term solution, Sharp said.

One helpful change would be to get a rural health designation for the clinic so that it can get more reimbursement for Medicaid and Medicare patients, Sharp said.

Another possibility is for voters to approve a special taxing district so a mill levy could be charged to fund the building's upkeep.

The South Routt Medical Center building was built in 1964 through donations and help from the Sears-Roebuck Foundation.

Chuck Wisecup, a member of the medical center's board of directors, asked the Oak Creek Town Board on Thursday night to forgo water and sewer charges to the medical center for the next 10 months, worth $780. The Town Board agreed.

He also said the medical center's board of directors hopes to go to voters in November to get a mill levy for the medical center approved.

"The center's a vital entity, mainly for the seniors," Wisecup said Thursday night.

The medical center also is pursuing grants but is going into its savings to stay open, he said.

"And that's not much," he said.

Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman stressed the medical center's importance at Thursday night's meeting.

"It's a wonderful amenity, and we can't afford to lose it," she said.

Sharp said that the current model for providing medical services at the center has been used for the past 15 years but does not seem to work because medical providers cannot cover their costs.

"So we have to find a new approach," Sharp said.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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