Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bonanza Column 211 – The Clinic Will Not Close

It's nice to have some good, positive news for a change. My column a couple of weeks ago on the possible closing of the Incline Village Health Center was the first in a long time that didn't draw any flak from my many "admirers." Now I'm glad to be able to report that, in part because of widespread community support, the Tahoe Forest Hospital District has stepped up to save the IVHC.

At a meeting of concerned community members last week, Fred Pritchard, former administrator of the Incline hospital and incoming president of the Tahoe Forest Hospital Foundation, along with others from the Hospital District and the Foundation, announced that the Tahoe Forest Hospital District intends to operate the clinic and keep it open at its location in the Centrepointe Building. The TFHD has made an initial 90-day commitment, but Pritchard and the others were clear that the District's intent is to keep it open and running, evolving it to provide broader services to uninsured residents as well as uninsured seasonal workers. Costs to patients will remain low, and the District will seek grant funding along with the current grants that they will "inherit" from Nevada Health Services, including funds from the County and from the Parasol Community Foundation. Nevada Health Services will be leaving the lion's share of the centers assets (furniture, equipment) behind, taking only their computers and telephone system, thus keeping transition costs down.

I asked Pritchard what they Hospital District needs from the community – he and the others present were unanimous that the key needs were community awareness, community support, and of course donations, particularly from local people who may have family or other foundations that could consider grants to the IV Health Center – something to keep in mind as the tax year winds down.

The bottom line is that, while all transitions are hard, and there may be a short period when the Center will not be open while certifications and records are transferred, people will have care, and the Hospital will pick up the slack. The Center is currently open nine days a month – the first Thursday of the month and every Tuesday and Wednesday – initially the hours will remain the same and may change depending on needs and funding.

It's important to emphasize that Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance are not sufficient to cover all of the community's needs. For those of us who are insured, it's easy to forget that there are some 600 families – estimated at more than 15% of the community – who are uninsured, and as we know, medical care is not like owning a car or insuring your home – when you need medical attention, it's not optional.

The outpouring of support for the Center has been real – at the meeting last week there were attendees from the CAB, the County, Parasol, local churches, and concerned citizens. There will be more meetings as things progress, and it's important that we don't let the upcoming holidays distract us from the real need for this facility.

One person who read my earlier column and attended last week's meeting said he was surprised at the tone of the column – he felt the issue needed more anger and outrage to get the point across. While I understand his thinking, I'm really glad to see that it didn't actually need that. Despite real differences in our community – Left and Right, IB and anti-IB, year-rounders and part-timers, you name it, the response to this emergency shows that when the chips are down our community can agree, and with Thanksgiving a couple of weeks away, that's something to include in what we're thankful for.

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