From THE WATCH
Commissioner Henderson Says 400 Jobs Depend on the Rural Facility
MONTROSE COUNTY – With its management agreement with the Montrose Memorial Hospital coming to an end on July 31, the Basin Clinic Board is desperately seeking a way to keep the rural clinic, located in Naturita, open for at least 40 hours a week.
Basin Clinic Board Secretary Christina Pierce said the board is in the precarious position of having to deal with changing leadership while finding a way to operate and fund the clinic on its own.
“We basically went from dealing with a landlord to figuring out how to run a clinic,” Pierce said. “Before, the hospital was doing all of our daily operations and the financial aspects of the clinic. The board has to figure out how to transfer over to our own independent, standalone clinic.”
All of this must be done following the recent resignations of Board President Gayland Thompson and of the clinic manager, Pierce said.
Last year, approximately 6,200 patients passed through the clinic’s doors; of those, 739 were emergency room visitors, and 468 patients arrived after hours.
“It is a busy place. The board is working diligently to make sure we have at least a 40-hour clinic,” Pierce said, adding that the clinic received $265,000 from Montrose County last year. The board has requested funds for this year, he said, but must first get a budget in place, before more monies can be distributed.
Since 2000 the clinic has operated under the auspices of the Montrose Memorial Hospital through a management agreement. On Jan. 22, the Basin Clinic Board was notified by MMH Board of Directors Chairperson Debi Harmon that the hospital could no longer support the Basin Clinic at a loss, because Montrose County is not willing to provide the financial support they believe is owed to the clinic in Public Safety Sales Tax revenues.
“Since November 2011, neither the Hospital nor Basin Clinic has been in receipt of any County funds for financial support, let alone to help offset annual shortfalls concerning the Basin Clinic,” Harmon stated in the Jan. 22 letter. “The Clinic Board, along with others, has worked diligently over the last year to acquire this support from the County, to no avail. As you know now, the County has been hesitant to continue to fund any Clinic loss since November 2011, concerned that the funding would wind up benefiting the hospital as well.”
Harmon, who further wrote that “the Basin Clinic Board will have the ultimate and final responsibility for putting the next healthcare delivery system in place,” did not return this reporter’s phone calls.
With the MMH Board of Directors contending that the county isn’t doing its share to support the rural healthcare clinic with its Safety Sales Tax revenues, and the County Commissioners countering that a contract agreement is needed for that funding to take place (a belief with which the MMH Board of Directors disagrees, as stated at a contentious meeting in October of last year), the dispute between the two entities flared up once again, at an April 15 meeting.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Commissioner Ron Henderson questioned the board’s decision to end its management agreement with the Basin Clinic. Henderson asked the public to question the MMH Board of Directors “if the hospital is in economic trouble” and if there is not a “better explanation” as to why the hospital withdrew its support.
“We need a better explanation” of what went wrong between the hospital and the clinic, Henderson said, adding that if the Basin Clinic does shut down, the West End of Montrose County Could potentially lose 400 jobs.
“The Tri-State Generation [and Transmission] plant has 35-40 jobs, the coal mine has 35-45 jobs, the proposed uranium mill has 285-300 jobs,” Henderson later clarified that 400-job count. “All require an emergency 24-hour room availability to operate. If not present in community, company needs to provide said onsite.”
While the finger pointing between the Montrose County Commissioners and the MMH Board of Directors continues, the July 31 deadline looms large for the Basin Clinic Board.
“The goal is to have a 40-hour clinic open on Aug. 1,” Pierce said. “If we can keep urgent care, that would be a bonus, but right now, the focus is to have a 40-hour clinic. How that is going to look, I can’t tell you.”
Because the clinic is a 501c3 nonprofit organization located in an enterprise zone, Pierce said, private donations to the clinic qualify for tax credits.