Our View: Devoted citizens save the medical clinic

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Medical clinics are vital community institutions

In response to concerns that the South Routt Medical Center was facing serious financial challenges, local residents recently formed a citizens advisory committee to help ensure the future viability of the center, which provides essential access to health care to the South Routt area.

Steamboat Today editorial board — January to April 2014

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Karl Gills, community representative
  • Will Melton, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

A major remodeling and expansion project at the center’s Oak Creek clinic has stretched thin the organization’s budget and caused what David Bonfiglio, a member of the newly formed advisory committee, describes as “a short-term problem related to allocation issues during the construction project.” It appears the committee was proactive in its response, stepping up before clinic days were canceled or staff members went without pay.

The medical clinic is a vital resource the community cannot stand to lose, and we commend those citizens in South Routt who had the gumption and foresight to stand up and make their concerns public. And more impressive is the fact that the citizens didn’t wait for another entity to come in and save the facility or stand aside and let the facility face financial ruin. Instead, they organized a separate advisory group and offered to work with the current board to forge a community-based solution. Bonfiglio stated the group’s overriding purpose was to make sure taxpayers are satisfied with center operations, that employees are taken care of and that patients are well served — all commendable goals.

This is not the first time the South Routt Medical Center has faced challenges during its 49 years of clinic operations in Oak Creek. Some of the previous issues have included reductions in Medicare and Medicare reimbursements and struggles to retain staff.

This latest step of forming an advisory committee is the second time in the past seven years that South Routt County citizens have come to the rescue of the medical center.

In 2006, the center faced closure because of dwindling resources, and in response, voters overwhelmingly passed a 2.1 mill levy to provide the center with the operating revenue it needed to continue providing health care services. Residents’ willingness to tax themselves to keep the medical clinic’s doors open proves how important the facility is to the local community.

On Monday, the board, led by a new president, appeared to take the first steps necessary to complete the current clinic expansion project, shore up budget shortfalls and improve the center’s financial footing. The board has secured a six-month line of credit that should provide a funding safety net for the short term until a more permanent funding solution can be reached.

It is vitally important for smaller medical facilities, like the clinic in Oak Creek or the Solandt Medical Clinic in Hayden, to remain open and available to residents seeking health care close to home. Local health centers are important institutions that need to be maintained and supported, and we are glad to see that South Routt residents recognize that and are willing to get involved and do whatever it takes to keep those clinic doors open.

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