Moffat County commissioners sit down with MRH board for start-of-year update |

Moffat County commissioners sit down with MRH board for start-of-year update

It’s the first time anyone involved can remember a meeting of this nature, and all agreed it was a winner

Memorial Regional Health's sign welcomes visitors to Craig's hospital.
Billy Schuerman / For the Craig Press

Tuesday, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners were the guests of Memorial Regional Health and its board of trustees for the first time anyone present could remember such a meeting taking place.

The suggestion of MRH was that the commissioners, who appoint the board of trustees of the partially county-funded hospital, meet for a year-end recap and year-ahead look forward — conceivably the first of an annual ongoing January meeting between the two groups.

“In five years I’ve been on this board, this is the first time we’ve sat down like this,” said board chair Kelly Hepworth. “It’s so important you guys understand what’s going on here.”

It was well-received by the commissioners, as well.

“People should see these sessions like what we had today and figure, hey, they’re trying,” Commissioner Donald Broom said, referring to negative public perception of the hospital and the effort to improve that perception. “On both sides. That says a lot, right there. That helps get things rolling.”

The meeting covered a series of updates and intentions for the new year from the hospital and included answers to a few questions levied by both commissioners and board members.

Discussion items included: Construction plans; Action taken toward establishing a Crisis Stabilization Unit for mental health, behavioral health and substance use disorder crises; Financial updates including loan status and revenue numbers; and an update on the nursing staffing situation.

Construction update

Interim CEO Jennifer Riley spoke to the conception that the hospital is constantly building. She said it’s a bit of a misconception.

“What we’ve wanted to do, under the direction of the board, is consolidate locations,” Riley said. “We have been spread out all over. Getting out of the old hospital was key, and you guys (the commissioners) know what it’s like to be in an old building and the cost to fix it are higher.”

A rented maintenance building’s lease coming up prompted building on site, Riley said. She added that some other holdings are also being phased out.

“The only off-site buildings we’ll own is Dr. (Larry) Kipe (at 600 Russell St.), which we’ll own outright in May, and the Rapid Care. Dr. Kipe will be there until he retires, which will be another few years, and Rapid Care is a workhorse, it’s a really good strategic place for us. We’re not really building that much — we needed to get out of old places.”

Crisis Stabilization Unit

Kyle Miller, Vice President of Clinical Support Services, spoke of a plan for a Crisis Stabilization Unit to occupy the former Obstetrics wing, which had been more recently used as the COVID-19 wing.

“One of the big focuses the hospital is looking at is how do we provide mental health and behavioral health services locally?” Miller said. “And how do we bridge the gap between outpatient and inpatient services they might need? The mindset of a Crisis Stabilization Unit is basically a unit that’s a temporary treatment service for patients seen in the E.R., and we’re trying to find either an inpatient bed for longer term or referring them to a more long-term, intensive outpatient program.”

The commissioners were particularly enthusiastic about this concept, mentioning the possibility that some county funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act could potentially be directed to help get this unit up and running.

“This is something I would be passionate about partnering on,” said Commissioner Tony Bohrer.

Miller said after the meeting that the hope was to be accepting patients by the third quarter of this year.

Nursing staffing

The nursing crew, like anywhere else in the country, is stretched thin at MRH.

Eleven nursing positions are open — the leadership team clarified under questioning by the commissioners that all but two of those were open prior to the recent controversial COVID-19 vaccination mandate terminations — and the hospital spends more than it wants to be on traveling nurses.

To help bridge gaps, the nursing team is becoming more united across different departments and helping between disciplines more freely than in years past.

Six new nurses, the hospital reported, are graduating from Colorado Mesa in the coming months, too, and recruiting of nurses is a priority for the hospital in 2022 and beyond.

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