New Telluride Medical Center a Must
by Barbara Newby, Telluride Medical Center Grant Coordinator
Sep 25, 2008 | 936 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Let me start off by saying that I support every citizen’s right to voice their opinions and concerns about actions that are going to be taken by their public officials. Having said that, my biggest pet peeve is that when people voice their concerns and opinions they stretch the truth and elaborate and get into such a fit of energizing passion that they don’t check the facts. It’s like a very bad version of the telephone game that kids play, only the stakes are higher and it is adults believing the misinformation printed within the opinion piece.

So as a taxpaying citizen of the Telluride area I would like to set some of the misinformation of Dr. Kim Hewson’s opinion piece (Sept. 19 Telluride Watch) straight. At one point in my life I lived just one-half mile from a Mayo Clinic, specifically the one in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Scottsdale Mayo Clinic, though much smaller than the one in Minnesota, sits on a multiple acre parcel which allows for future growth, the lobby complete with baby grand piano could swallow the entire Palm Theatre. Underground parking and a full service restaurant-style cafeteria and upscale gift shop are located in wings off the main lobby.

Looking at the drawings for the new Telluride Medical Center I don’t see anything that comes close to the Scottsdale Mayo Clinic. But don’t take my word for it; all one needs to do is Google Mayo Clinic and take the virtual tour of all three of their campuses and judge for yourself.

As the grant writer for TMC I am responsible for requesting financial assistance for additional medical services that are provided through the TMC Visiting Specialist Program. This program has allowed for the medical center to add enhanced medical services so that locals do not have to travel over one hour each way for ancillary services.

Visiting specialists make use of provided space at the Telluride Medical Center on a weekly basis. Many of these specialists come from over 65 miles away and offer care in cardiology, dermatology, general surgery, orthopedics, and midwife services. This year, with funds provided by a grant, doctors of psychiatry have joined the Visiting Specialist Program. One needs only to read the local papers to see that the “wee little ones” are a growing piece of the demographics here in the Telluride Hospital District region. Many new parents have raised the issue of bringing in a pediatric specialist, even if only on a part time basis, but there just is no space available. A new TMC facility would provide the necessary space for this growing Visiting Specialist Program, which has met the needs and requests of many local patients.

In December of 2006 the San Juan Health Initiative Council, a collaborative of medical providers in the region, issued the findings of the community wide Health Care Needs Assessment. The study, administered by the Joffit Group, supports the need for enhanced health care services.

With the additional space at a larger facility other specialty providers could begin to provide the recommended services in Telluride. For example the tax supported Uncompahgre primary care clinic in Norwood has just expanded its clinic services by adding dental care for the underserved and uninsured, which was one of the many recommendations in the study. The Telluride Medical Center decision to add psychiatry focuses on meeting the need for increased mental health care outlined in the same study. Other taxed based primary clinics in the region that are part of this collaborative are located in Naturita and Nucla.

The mission of the Telluride Medical Center is to provide the highest quality health care to all persons regardless of their ability to pay.

The goals of the Telluride Medical Center are: to improve the quality healthcare for all patients in the Telluride Hospital District region and to provide enhanced primary care services by expanding services and facilities to meet the needs of the community. TMC is committed to providing quality health care services for all regardless of a patient’s medical problems, ethnic or religious background, or ability to pay including those on Medicare, Medicaid, the underinsured, and indigent.

For a publicly funded hospital district the challenge of this goal is magnified in this underserved region where 10 percent of the population of San Miguel County lives below the poverty level. This percentage increases to over 20 percent for families with children under the age of 18 according to the most recent U.S. census data. Recorded growth of TMC patients by 4.3 percent represents 315 non-duplicated new patients through August 2008, with 69 percent of that number applying for access into the grant supported TMC Care Support Program. This program provides a sliding scale fee for medical services to local residents and employees of local business only. During the 2007 fiscal year the TMC electronic medical records program recorded over 14,000 patient visits for primary care and ER. The largest part of the growth is local, not seasonal. Enhancing ER care would be catering to those high season, high trauma visits, while eliminating support for the high numbers of uninsured and underinsured locals who have come to rely on TMC for their primary, non-emergent care.

Through grant supported community outreach and the annual TMC Health Fair, TMC providers have educated the community on the importance of preventative medical care. And while it is extremely important for a community such as Telluride to have a 24-hour Level V Trauma Emergency Center for true emergencies such as cardiac arrest, severe altitude sickness and all other true emergency needs, treating non-emergent cases in ER/trauma centers comes with a price tag that the hospitals across America and the Telluride Hospital District cannot afford. Again, don’t take my word for it, Google or Wikipedia “the high cost of emergency care in America” and decide for yourself. Let me suggest that local patients that were diagnosed in early stages of diabetes, colorectal cancer and cardiac disease because of preventative screenings during TMC May Women and Men’s Health Month are happy that they were educated on the importance of preventative health care and had a primary care clinic that offered a very inexpensive way to get it close to home.

Real estate, even in this down market, is extremely expensive in this paradise we call home. The Telluride Hospital District and the three medical entities that call 500 W. Pacific Ave. home are in fact lucky to pay such a small amount in rent to the Town of Telluride. However, to tell the “rest of the story” one must also calculate the property tax of $38,400 the Telluride Medical Center must pay as well. While on the topic of rent, the board set no precedent when the Institute for Altitude Medicine opened a satellite office in the Telluride Mountain Village core. The board simply made a good business decision by collaborating with the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association that provides internationally known Dr. Peter Hackett and the Institute for Altitude Medicine with space in exchange for the ability for local residents, second home owners and visitors alike to be seen in Mountain Village when experiencing the discomforts and sometimes critical effects of altitude sickness. TMC’s lower level is still home to the Institute for Altitude Medicine and the research work they do.

In my opinion, providing high quality medical care to all is inclusionary and the morally sound thing to do as a community. On a strictly business basis why as a community do we want to make sure our publicly funded hospital district is inclusionary; most foundations, all federal and state funding agencies require it before they will fund your grant applications for program money or capital money for new buildings and equipment.

Something for each of us to think about.
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