Volume 5, Number 10 - June 2, 2005
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RHCD: Single clinic ballots to be sent
The first of two public hearings regarding the issue of whether the county should have one or two medical clinics was held Tuesday evening at the Pinedale Library. All Sublette County Rural Health Care District board members were present and some 30 citizens attended the meeting, with 13 people offering their opinions on the issue.
Two speakers were in favor of the single-clinic proposal, both indicating that one clinic would make it easier to deal with physicians and would save money for the health care board.
The 11 speakers in favor of maintaining the two-clinic system emphasized convenience and the problems with travel time with a single clinic in Daniel. At present, over 80 percent of the county population has medical care available within minutes. A Daniel clinic would mean that same percentage would be faced with a 20-to-45-minute trip to reach medical care. That time would be longer in periods of bad road conditions.
Ambulance service would be strained with units out of service for longer periods for each trip. Costs to users would increase with added distance whether they use an ambulance or their own transportation.
The board members appear to be split on the issue of two clinics versus one clinic. Board members Walt Bousman and Garry Eiden have clearly opposed the single-clinic idea while the remaining members have been reluctant to express their leanings. What seems to be overwhelming public opinion and the position of Sublette County Commissioners in opposition to a single clinic may contribute to that reluctance. Some members may still be undecided or unable to reach a conclusion without further study.
During the board member comment period of the meeting, Bill Barney expressed concern about availability of medical personnel who would be willing to handle the current on call system. Several applicants for the current openings have declined to be considered if they would be on call.
Board Member Mary Lynn Worl questioned the ability to continue the two-clinic system, feeling emergency service and future growth may make a single clinic the best option. Collecting money from Medicare would also be easier with a fully staffed full-time clinic. Worl also suggested that the board could provide only emergency service and let physicians in private practice handle the majority of medical care without board involvement.
Chairman Jerry Jensen commented that many citizens don't care about future needs but are focused on what they want now. Jensen emphasized the board's responsibility to look at all options and to take all the time needed to make the best choice. Any action taken will set the pattern and agenda for many years to come.
Jensen emphasized that his vision of a single clinic would include 24-hour staffing with no on-call doctors, eliminating the issues facing current contracted physicians. The single clinic would be run and managed by the board and would not be under the control of the doctors.
Jensen further reported that a ballot-type referendum will be sent to county residents, allowing them to express their feelings about the issue. This information, along with meeting input, will give the board a sense of the feelings of the public. Barney noted that this referendum will not be binding on the board and that they alone will make the final decision.
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