Basalt clinic scrambles to serve low-income patients
An estimated 700 uninsured, low-income, Medicaid and Medicare patients of a Basalt medical care clinic can no longer use its services because of tightening space at the facility.
The patients are being referred to the clinic’s Glenwood Springs offices, and the ones who still use the clinic are on waitlists as long as four or five months, said Ross Brooks, the agency’s executive director.
Equally pressing is the effort to find a larger space in the Basalt area. That’s because there are about 3,000 people in the mid-Roaring Fork Valley who lack the financial means to use other medical-care services.
“We’re looking at our long-term prospects,” Brooks said last week. “We want to stay in the Basalt area because our purpose is to serve the low-income folks in Pitkin County, but the price per square foot is not cheap. It’s expensive.”
The clinic is part of Mountain Family Health Centers, which serves low-income and poverty-level patients through its clinics in Basalt, Edwards, Glenwood Springs and Rifle. Mountain Family was launched in 2001.
Aspen Valley Hospital is the clinic’s Basalt landlord and has provided the space at 234 Cody Lane, which is in the Basalt Business Center, free of charge. The clinic is open Monday through Friday; the hospital uses the space for after-hours urgent care and also runs it on weekends. The building spans 6,687 square feet, according to property records.
The Aspen hospital, facing an increasing volume of competition in the midvalley from Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, is taking up more space in the building for its physicians. Nine months ago, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ann Golden, who specializes in hand operations and is affiliated with the Aspen hospital, began seeing patients at the Basalt office 21/2 days a week.
Brooks said that cut into the clinic’s capacity to see patients, but the severity was greater than he anticipated. At a meeting in July, the Pitkin County Board of Health projected that 350 patients of Mountain Family would see reduced access to the Basalt clinic because of the hospital’s expanded use of the space.
But last week, officials determined that number doubled.
“The hospital is saying they don’t have a choice” but to expand into the space, said Nan Sundeen, Pitkin County’s director of health and human services.
Brooks said he believes it is inevitable that Aspen Valley Hospital eventually will occupy the entire space.
Terry Collins, the hospital’s interim CEO, was unavailable for an interview last week because he was out of town, but in an email to The Aspen Times, he said: “We have not yet made any decisions about the space. To make a comment at this time would be premature.”
County records show that as of July, Pitkin County was home to 4,525 residents below the federal poverty guidelines. Among them are more than 2,500 residents who are uninsured and 2,767 who are on Medicare. Another 1,480 were on Medicaid.
Brooks said efforts are underway to raise capital for another Basalt clinic.
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Aspen appears to be in high demand as a Presidents Day Weekend destination, with commercial and private flights delayed more than two hours Friday at the Pitkin County airport.