County, hospital officials weigh concerns about YVMC’s growing presence in Craig
July 9, 2015
Craig — Yampa Valley Medical Center's purchase of the old Safeway building in Craig has raised concerns amongst local hospital and county leadership about how it might affect The Memorial Hospital.
The nearly 50,000-square-foot space on Victory Way will bring YVMC's Craig services under one roof. Based in Steamboat Springs, the non-profit community hospital has had a presence in Craig since 2007 when it opened YampaCare Specialty Clinic. It opened YampaCare Family Medicine in a separate space in 2014, and is now looking to consolidate the clinics into the former Safeway location.
TMH Board Chair Forrest Luke is concerned that YVMC could take away valuable commercially paying TMH patients, who help keep the hospital's doors open for all patients including those on Medicaid, Medicare and the Colorado Indigent Care Program, which is essentially charity care.
TMH opened in 1949 and has been a county-owned, tax-supported hospital since 1952 when it was deeded to Moffat County residents.
In 2007, voters approved a $42 million bond to build the new hospital, which opened in late 2009. TMH now employs about 250 people, making it the fifth-largest employer in the county, according to TMH Chief of Marketing and Business Development Jennifer Riley. The old hospital location has since become a medical clinic, home to TMH's family physicians and several other practitioners.
"We have a big investment, a $42 million bond that needs to be protected," Luke said. "We’re concerned with them coming in and maybe looking at skimming some of the commercial cream off the top. That money would be going out of town. It's not good for the community and not good for the hospital."
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Moffat County elected officials expressed mixed feelings about YVMC's move.
While he is pleased to see the long-vacant space filled, Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe is concerned about how YVMC will economically impact not only TMH but the county.
"When you look at it from an economic standpoint, with all the challenges we're having with the federal government. … with Wild Earth Guardians and the Office of Surface Mining and the sage grouse and all that, we need to have a strong economy," Moe said. "Any dollar that leaves our economy from here that goes back to Steamboat. … I'm not happy about dollars leaving to another community."
For YVMC, the move isn't so much an expansion as an upgrade, according to Senior Director of Marketing and Business Development Karen McRight, who said they plan to build out only slightly more square footage in the new building compared to their current spaces. The goal is to begin renovations this fall and open by the fall of 2016.
"We're just moving what we currently have into a nicer space, with better parking," McRight said. "We wanted to reinvest in the community with a building that already existed. That building… made good sense to us even though it's larger than what we needed."
Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid counts the move as a positive development for Craig, even while noting that he and his wife have personally supported TMH financially through the nonprofit TMH Foundation. Kinkaid also is the county representative at each TMH Board of Trustees meeting.
"To not have a vacant store space and to have a good, responsible business in there, I think it helps the community," Kinkaid said. "I think competition is healthy… It will give our residents more choices."
Physical therapy is the only new service YVMC plans to add to its current Craig lineup, McRight said, which includes cardiology, asthma and allergies, urology, orthopaedics, dermatology, pain management and OB/GYN, as well as family medicine. A total of 19 YVMC providers currently see patients in Craig, 13 of them specialty providers.
"We've never purposefully looked at that market and said, 'Hey, we want to compete with (TMH)," McRight said. "We've simply responded to the patients and customers we're treating and seeing and staying true to the belief that people should be able to receive their health care locally."
Last year, approximately 1,200 patients from Moffat County received care from YVMC, according to McRight.
He said that as a nonprofit hospital YVMC also sees patients who cannot pay in full. In fiscal year 2014, the hospital provided more than $1.8 million worth of financial assistance and charity care, according to YVMC's annual report.
TMH offered nearly $900,000 in charity care in 2014, according to its annual report. With an overall patient revenue of nearly $37 million for TMH compared to more than $80 million for YVMC in 2014, both hospitals allotted nearly the same percentage of funds to charity care relative to overall revenue.
"We are a Moffat County facility and we're focused on providing services to people in Moffat County and Craig. That's why we're here. We're not looking at other market places," said TMH CEO John Rossfeld. "Competition can sometimes make all of us better — that's kind of the American philosophy — but our focus is going to be doing the best job we can for our community."
Rossfeld noted that TMH provides unique services that essentially cost the hospital money to maintain but are necessary services for the community, such as the emergency department.
"We provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage so that we're here when someone has an emergency," Rossfeld said.
In the past several years, TMH has added two pediatricians, several family practice providers, a general surgeon, an emergency physician, a cardiologist and, set to begin in August, Craig's first-ever resident orthopedic surgeon.
The hospital is also looking to expand telemedicine services to connect residents with more specialty-care providers, such as it has done in the emergency department where suspected stroke victims can be immediately connected with a neurologist at Swedish Medical Center in Denver.
"We're working hard at it and we've made tremendous strides in recent years," Rossfeld said.
Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.