From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 11 - June 9, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

RHCD told “No!”

by Cat Urbigkit

The Sublette County Rural Health Care District Board met in Marbleton Wednesday evening, June 1, to hear public input regarding whether the district should operate a single medical clinic in the county, to be located in Daniel, rather the current two-clinic structure.

The meeting was held in the Marbleton Fire Hall, which was nearly overflowing. Before the meeting even began, volunteers went to the town hall to borrow more chairs for the crowd entering the session.

Whether the board heeds what it heard remains to be seen, but those members of the public who spoke were unanimous

Their view of the one-clinic proposal: “No.”

Retired politico Louie Tomassi was first to speak to the board, stating, “What I want most of all is, I want my clinic back.”

Tomassi told the board that its management and problems have resulted in the Marbleton Clinic being without a contracting physician for 45 days.

“You’ve created a lot of hardship,” Tomassi said. “We need to do something and not wait too long.”

Another option for the public would be to join the movement to dissolve the current RHCD and create two separate districts in its stead.

Deputy County Coroner Frank Morrison said if the board decides to go with a Daniel clinic, response times would increase, a critical factor in emergencies.

“I think the DOA rate is going to climb,” he said.

Kathy Hetrick was critical of the board’s relationship with doctors, noting that the board had recently hired a director, when “what we really need is a liaison between you and our doctors.”

Hetrick said, “We need a clinic here in this town” as well as “a staff that knows what they’re doing,” considering the bad vehicle and industrial accidents and other trauma that occurs in outlying areas.

Marbleton Councilwoman Sue Hoefer told the board “we need to go forward with our clinics, not backward.” She urged the board to continue the public clinic in Marbleton.

Leo Schueler noted, “There is a constant controversy going on here ... it just isn’t working.”

Schueler told the board, “You’re driving out the current medical profession,” while new people won’t want to come here because of the political situation.

Rick Costello noted that the county is blessed with money that can be used to provide the two most desired items: good schools and quality medical care.

“Let’s do whatever it takes to accomplish that,” Costello said. “Let’s quit creating controversy and take advantage of the great situation we have here.”

Jane Wardell was eloquent in her plea to leave the Marbleton clinic in place. Recalling the days when there were no doctors in the community, Wardell urged the board to maintain the clinic. She told the story of her mother dying of an asthma attack in her arms, only 10 miles from town, because a doctor couldn’t get there in time to save her.

A clinic in Daniel is inadequate, Wardell said.

“We deserve better than that,” she said. “What we’re about here is saving lives, not saving money.”

Wardell also noted the amount of emergency traffic associated with airports in Pinedale and Marbleton, while Daniel has no such facilities.

“That’s not good enough for us,” Wardell said.

Marbleton emergency medical technician Wendy Gaston noted that there is a golden hour for the ambulance service and that clock starts ticking from the time the accident happens.

“We need a clinic here,” she said. “We need to save lives and we need it (a medical clinic) here to do that.”

Members of the RHCD board spoke on the issue as well. Walt Bousman was absent from the session, but Board Member Garry Eiden Sr. was blunt in his assessment of the situation, stating, “Daniel would be completely out of reason,” which generated applause from the crowd.

Board Member Bill Barney said that Wardell “got as close to my thoughts on this as anyone.”

He said that the issue isn’t money, but finding enough doctors to man the two clinics. He said the most obvious solution would be to hire more health care providers, but that would involve increasing budgets.

“The critical issue is how to create the working environment” so that doctors will want to relocate here, rather than want to leave.

Board Member Mary Lynn Worl declined to provide her opinion, instead stating that she found “public input valuable.”

Board Chairman Jerry Jensen advocated the Daniel clinic, which would be operated by the board itself, as a way to provide specialized medical care, perhaps even outpatient surgery.

But after listening to speaker after speaker, Jensen said, “I don’t see any choice but to go with both clinics.”

After listening to the heart-felt pleas from local residents trying to convince the board to allow the Marbleton Clinic to remain in place, former RHCD board member and current county commissioner John Linn said the physicians’ relationship with the board, at best, has been “horrible.”

“It’s always a crisis,” Linn said, noting that the room was full of people “sitting here on pins and needles,” wondering if they were about to lose their medical clinic.

Linn challenged the board to end the suspense by making a decision about the clinic issue at the meeting, rather than waiting until a later date.

“Either do the clinic or forget it,” Linn said.

The board declined to make its decision. Worl said that the board wanted to conduct a public survey since there is some support for the Daniel idea, although admittedly this is a minority view.

Eiden made a motion to kill the Daniel clinic idea, but failed to receive a second on the motion. Jensen said this was an information-only meeting, not a decision-making session.

In all, 16 citizens spoke, all of whom urged the board to keep the Marbleton clinic operational.

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