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Officials detail transition after clinic closure

The transition of lower-income, uninsured medical patients from a midvalley clinic that was recently closed by Aspen Valley Hospital to a medical center in Glenwood springs has gone smoothly, medical officials say.

On Dec. 8, in a highly contentious meeting, the hospital board decided to cut funding to the Aspen Basalt Care Clinic, which served around 500 patients a year. It decided to direct patients and funding instead to the Mountain Family Health Center, a federally supported health care program for the poor in Glenwood Springs.

At the Dec. 8 meeting, the board pledged to provide Mountain Family with $50,000 for capital improvements along with covering the cost of AVH district patients treated in Glenwood. The Mountain Family Health Center charges patients on a sliding scale, depending on income.



A main concern for board members during the meeting arose over transportation issues. Many expressed concern that indigent patients would not have the resources to travel from the mid and upper valley to Glenwood.

Board member Bob D’Alessio went so far as to refuse to vote for the closure unless a transportation provision was provided. He eventually voted in favor when hospital administrators agreed to run a patient van service from Basalt to Glenwood.



The van service has never been implemented. Hospital officials say that transportation worries have been addressed instead by the provision of bus tickets and, if needed, taxi fare.

“The fact that taxis will be provided if necessary satisfies the concerns I expressed at the meeting,” D’Alessio said. “As long as these patients have a way to get [to Glenwood]” he’ll be happy.

The Basalt clinic was given three weeks to arrange to transfer patients to Glenwood’s facility, a decision which sparked criticism from AVH’s chief of physicians, who accused the board of acting hastily.

According to Verna Bartlett, AVH’s chief financial officer who recommended the clinic’s closure to the board, health care officials from the three concerned institutions ” the hospital, the Aspen Basalt Care Clinic and Mountain Family ” have been working diligently to facilitate the transition.

A detailed letter was sent by the Basalt clinic about its closure to its patients. Dr. Glen Kotz and nurse practitioner Lisa Robbiano, who made up the medical staff in Basalt, have continued to see patients on a limited basis. The clinic’s telephone number has also remained available through January. Patients who call for appointments are being redirected to Glenwood.

“During this month, the Basalt staff have been doing a phenomenal job in assisting the transition,” Bartlett said. “I think it’s gone smoother than could have been hoped for.”

Dave Adamson, Mountain Family Health Center director, agreed with Bartlett’s optimism. He said the Basalt clinic’s patients have been given top priority in Glenwood and those with chronic medical needs ” such as diabetics ” have received proper attention.

“I think it’s gone fine,” Adamson said. “It was a little sudden, but medical people rallied and made sure it was an orderly transition.”

A main challenge indigent care clinics face is referrals. Mountain Family will see a patient without charge, but if the patient needs treatment from a specialist ” for cancer, for example ” it is often difficult to find free specialist treatment.

Adamson believes AVH will provide a great resource for Glenwood’s referrals. A hospital liaison for the Glenwood clinic ” Debby Charlson ” is assisting on referral needs.

“I think my staff’s impression is that the Aspen hospital has been forthcoming about specialist resources when needed,” Adamson said.

Hospital officials say they will continue to monitor patient transition closely, with the continued assistance of the Glenwood clinic.

“We’re excited about this. I think it’s a wonderful solution for this group of patients,” Bartlett said.

[Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com]


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