Moffat County providers prepare to compete as merger brings UCHealth to Yampa Valley | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County providers prepare to compete as merger brings UCHealth to Yampa Valley

Yampa Valley Medical Center CEO Frank May, left, and Kevin Unger, president and CEO of Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies, pull a temporary covering off the sign at the entrance to the hospital, marking the merger between the Yampa Valley Medical Center and UCHeath.

A merger has brought one of Colorado's largest health care systems to the Yampa Valley, and that has two local entities taking notice.

UCHealth is a nonprofit health care system that on Sept. 1 added Yampa Valley Medical Center to the six hospitals, two medical clinics and two affiliated hospitals in its organization.

In 2016 UCHealth employed over 17,000 people, had over 100,000 inpatient admissions and over 2.5 million outpatient visits. Those numbers grew in 2017 with the addition of YVMC.

For Memorial Regional Health the, "locally owned and locally governed choice for healthcare Moffat County… It will keep us on our toes for sure," said CEO Andy Daniels. "We will have to work very hard to provide a cost competitive service, continue to improve our customer service, and expand services as needed to support our community."

The merger could be a good one for patients.

"One of the benefits of having a system as large and diverse as UCHealth is that it will afford all residents of our region better access to highly specialized care that is outside of the scope of any rural hospital," said CEO of Northwest Colorado Health Lisa Brown.

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On the day of the merge Frank May, Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Chief Executive Officer, told the Steamboat Today that he expected to bring better health care to Steamboat accessibly of sub specialty care, and population health models — "where we are actually working to keep people healthy versus having them come into the hospital."

The last goal is very similar to the vision of Northwest Colorado Health.

"Our vision is for all people to be living full lives out in the community rather than visiting the doctor of staying in a hospital," Brown said.

However, Brown doesn't see UCHealth as a competitor.

"Northwest Colorado Health believes that the true competitor is preventable poor health caused by poverty and stress," she said. "We intend to continue providing the award winning quality care we have offered since 1964 and expand it to meet today's changing demands like a rapidly aging population and folks who are caring for multiple generations of their family while trying to make ends meet."

Northwest Colorado Health's clinic is a Federally Qualified Community Health Center enabling them to see anyone regardless of their ability to pay.

"We have an income based sliding fee scale that is available to all patients. Our services include doctors, dentists and behavioral and mental health therapists. In Moffat County, we are blessed to have affordable options for everyone to be able to see a doctor without breaking their budget," Brown said.

May said that UCHealth, as a result of the merge, they can now offer a "continuum of care" to Yampa Valley patients.

"Typically when a larger hospital system, or in this case a very large health system purchases a stand-alone hospital the words "continuum of care" is code for the larger hospital centralizing the out-migration of services from several existing providers to a single provider, usually that larger hospital itself. This doesn't mean that the quality of care gets better or is even more convenient to the patient. It means that all out referrals are going to go to UCHealth," Daniels said.

He believes if that happens, being local will give MRH a competitive advantage.

"It is our experience that patients want to remain local… We are working hard to expand services and to be creative about partnering with others to keep patients here while providing exceptional quality care," he said.

Another goal UCHealth has, according to make is to examine their cost structure and look at reduced premiums. Daniels hopes patients will take a close look.

"UCHealth isn't known for ‘reducing premiums’ and we think that the new pricing transparency efforts in Colorado will force all healthcare providers to look at their charges," he said. "I should note that the Board of Trustees has approved our plan for 2018 which includes looking at several areas to reduce costs to consumers to remain competitive. As an example, our first area will be charges for labs."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

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