SARATOGA – There was a complete surprise action taken by Saratoga Mayor John during the city’s second monthly council meeting.
Immediately after the town’s bills were paid, under the heading of “Council Comments,” Mayor Zeiger made an opening statement of how he thought the Rawlins hospital should have had a chance to show Saratoga what they could offer as a solution to when Dr. Bryan Kiser left.
With this statement, Zeiger proceeded to introduce the CEO of the Memorial Hospital of Carbon County Robert Quist, who then introduced the three members of the hospital board of trustees, whom were present. This included board president Sherrod France, vice president Rod Waeckerlin, and trustee member Mark Kostavny.
This group was not on the published agenda. No advance notice was given to the public or to the other Town Council members about a presentation by the hospital CEO. Mayor Zeiger gave no explanation for his lack of transparency.
Quist discussed the positive advantages of Saratoga being affiliated with Memorial Hospital of Carbon County and the services it provides.
“The Hospital is totally debt free. We will not need any subsidies to operate a clinic in Saratoga,” said Quist.
Quist, in his presentation, described the Rawlins hospital as a 25-bed critical access hospital that already has a fully-staffed intensive care unit and a fully-staffed 24/7 emergency room facility ready to continue serving the residents of Saratoga and the Upper Platte Valley.
When asked how soon the hospital could begin operations if they took over the clinic, Quist could not give an estimate. He said he was certain the Saratoga clinic was a nice facility, but it would have to be inspected and “brought up to the Rawlins hospital standards,” but he did not expect any major issues.
As for having a full-time doctor in Saratoga, Quist said, “We would need to find the right doctor for Saratoga and that takes time.”
When pressed on that topic he said that “floating” doctors are available and could be brought in temporarily to fill the vacancy, but they are “very expensive.” Floating doctors are those doctors who will come in and work in an area for only a short time and then leave to be replaced by another floater.
When pressed further by an audience question about Saratoga having a full-time doctor “Monday though Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” he said, he said no.
“We would only have a part-time doctor shared with Rawlins based on the amount of business this clinic does,” Quist said.
As for the current staff at the clinic, Quist said they would be welcome to stay if they chose.
When asked if Memorial Hospital of Carbon County was interested in helping save the nursing home, which is currently struggling to survive, he saidn “No,” describing nursing homes as difficult and expensive to run.
Will Faust, former council member and a founding member of the Healthcare Sustainability Project Sub-Committee, arranged to be at this council meeting and gave a brief update on the progress toward bringing a critical access hospital to Saratoga. Progress is being made, said Faust, but “an operating facility is an estimated two years out.”
The planning for the 501©(3) management company that will own and manage the CAH, planned for Saratoga, is proceeding; as is the process of site selection for this facility, according to Faust. The feasibility study to determine if the Upper Platte Valley area can sustain a CAH facility is continuing. This study is required by the Federal Government before a financing loan can be applied for.
Mark Pesognelli, the manager of the Platte Valley Clinic, reminded the council and audience that his company has nearly completed the long, arduous task of insurance accreditation. If Memorial Hospital took over the Saratoga clinic, it would have to start the insurance accreditation process all over again to be allowed to bill Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield and all the other insurance companies that the residents of the Platte Valley use, according to Pesognelli.
Toward the end of this discussion about the need to have a clinic and a doctor in Saratoga, councilperson Bob Keel reminded everyone present that “the contract between the town and Karl Rude to operate the Clinic was not being canceled.”
The contract, however, to operate the clinic is under review by the Council. This review, which was initiated during the May 7 council meeting, is an effort to enable Rude to have a contract that he can comply with, as outlined in a previous Rawlins Times story. He has not been able to hire a full-time doctor or “ensure the availability of 24/7 on call services” at the clinic, as the existing contract requires since last fall.
The review of Rude’s contract, which was expected for this council meeting, was not mentioned. Nothing was discussed as to the state of that review.
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