Clinic closure explained |

Clinic closure explained

Claudia Nelson, M.D.
president, medical staff
Aspen Valley Hospital

As a physician on staff at Aspen Valley Hospital, I have been very concerned by the perceptions and negative statements I have been hearing about the closure of the Aspen Basalt Care Clinic.

I knew there had been discussions regarding its closure since the number of patients seen there and the hours it was open were dwindling over the past few years. Still, the suddenness of the decision and closure took everyone involved with the clinic by surprise.

The many questions and comments I have heard from patients, friends and fellow physicians since the announcement of the clinic’s closure have made it seem that Aspen Valley Hospital (and its physicians by extension) do not care about the poor and indigent in the mid- and upper valley and want to send them all downvalley for their medical care.

As someone who worked in indigent care for many years, I know all too well that significant federal, state, and philanthropic funding is necessary or these care centers simply go bankrupt. Mountain Valley Health Care Center (MVHCC) is the only clinic in this area that has been able to get the designation as a clinic to a medically under-served population, therefore allowing it to receive federal and state funding and carry a waiver for malpractice insurance for its care providers.

It also receives three to four times more reimbursement from Medicaid than any other Medicaid provider in the area. These combined factors make MVHCC the logical facility to provide indigent care to our valley. We certainly did not wish to suddenly increase their patient load, especially over the holidays; but the rapidity of the closure of the Aspen Basalt Care Clinic certainly has caused some scrambling in both clinics ” to notify patients, transfer records and readjust staff scheduling. Overall, however, the administrator of MVHCC states that they are happy to receive additional patients and will continue to work with AVH to attempt to make the transition go smoothly.

Over the past week, I have had numerous conversations with upper-valley physicians who care deeply for the less fortunate in our community and want to ensure that they continue to receive the care they need. Many physicians would like to continue a dialogue with MVHCC about the future possibilities of the clinic opening a satellite in the upper valley to which they may be able to contribute funding, time, or both.

In the meantime, nearly every physician I know on staff at Aspen Valley Hospital already provides care to poor and indigent families at reduced fees and sometimes for no reimbursement, as the need arises ” and this type of care will continue. They will also continue to provide specialty consultations and care for patients of Mountain Valley Health Care Center as needed. Aspen Valley Hospital is a provider for the Colorado Indigent Care Program for hospitalization and this will continue. Aspen Valley Hospital and Aspen Valley Medical Foundation will provide additional funding to MVHCC as the Aspen Basalt Care Clinic closes.

In light of all the questions, rumors and concerns regarding this transition in indigent care, the physicians at AVH want the community to know that they are committed to continue working on finding an equitable solution to the problems of low income, under-insured and indigent families in our community.

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