Health care topic of forum |

Health care topic of forum

Routt, Moffat officials discuss options for the future

Danie Harrelson

— Recent demographic shifts in Moffat and Routt county populations have already caused health problems and may create future medical dilemmas, county commissioners decided Thursday night.

Commissioners from Moffat County and Routt County met to discuss similar challenges and solutions shared by both counties in an informal setting in Steamboat Springs.

Sue Birch, director of the Visiting Nurse Association, encouraged commissioners to show stronger support for improvements in the region’s medical community.

“What we need are strong health-care programs,” Birch said. “Your outspoken commitment to these programs goes a long way.”

The city of Craig, in Moffat County, wants to build a new hospital to replace its aging hospital.

Some are worried a new medical facility so close to Steamboat Springs might eventually compete with Yampa Valley Medical Center.

YVMC has lost clientele as doctors have moved into the area and set up private practices, Birch said.

Moffat County commissioners want the medical profession in Routt County to know that their intention is not to draw away YVMC patients with a new hospital in Craig.

They instead want to enhance the health of the medical community in the entire region by improving access to care.

“We don’t want to do something that creates competition,” Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said. “Our hospital is a very archaic facility by contrast, and we at least need to improve upon that.”

Some mention has been made that Craig’s new facility might instead be a critical access care facility, she said.

“Our doctors don’t want to think that they’re just another quick stop instead of a real hospital,” Raftopoulos said.

Commissioners foresee an impending health-care crisis as elderly residents are caught in limbo when they can’t stay at home by themselves but do not need to stay in a nursing home.

Many 80-year-olds, especially in the Steamboat Springs area, who remain physically active and independent today will be unable to care for themselves in 10 or 20 years.

“This is what some of us in the medical profession call the ‘calm before the storm,'” Birch said.

The region is in serious need of a home health-care program, but Raftopoulos said she doubts that enough people in her county would be willing to work for the poor wages and long hours that accompany the program.

The solution lies in compromise and understanding that both counties must contribute to a progressive medical region, Birch said.

“We need to work together to see how we can both add to the industry, so it’s not like this medical arms warfare between the two hospitals,” Birch said.

Medical budgets have been stretched, as the number of those who cannot afford to pay for health care increases.

Birch suggested greater attention be paid to the increasing number of infants born to non-English-speaking mothers before they fall through the cracks.

“These changing demographics have placed tremendous pressure on health and human services,” Birch said.

“This just creates huge holes,” Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak added.

Commissioners also considered suicide rates, which do not mirror the rest of the state, as well as improving care for area veterans.

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