Taxpayer-Owned Ridgway Clinic Issues RFP
by Samantha Wright
Aug 10, 2012 | 1845 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY COUNTY – A little over a decade ago, faced with losing what was then the only medical care facility in Ouray County, voters here approve a new mill levy to fund the purchase of a clinic in Ridgway.

Now, the mission of acquiring a “taxpayer owned and partially equipped facility to assure the area of continued medical services” is complete. The last mortgage payment was made in 2011, and the taxpayers of Ouray County own the Ridgway clinic that is currently occupied by Mountain Medical, free and clear.

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 6-8 p.m. Ouray County residents are invited to drop by Mountain Medical Center (295 Sherman Street) to learn more about the unique entity that oversees the taxpayer funding that continues to support the clinic. Voters will be asked in November to choose three new directors to serve on the RSA board.

RSA Treasurer Scott Middleton admits it’s sometimes a thankless job.

“It’s out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “Most people probably believe Mountain Medical is privately owned. But county residents own the building and equipment, and there is a budget to make sure we will be able to keep the medical facility going. It’s a big role, an important piece of what the community needs to feel safe – to make sure medical services are available.”

At the upcoming open house, current members of the RSA Board of Directors will take time to describe what the RSA is about and what future looks like, and will outline responsibilities of potential new members.

“We’ll provide an honest picture of what it takes to serve on the board and what someone can expect,” Middleton explained.

The RSA was formed with the intention of acquiring the medical facility in Ridgway and contracting with appropriate medical providers to ensure there would be ongoing medical care available in Ouray County. While the mill levy that supports the facility is tied to a particular building, it is not necessarily tied to a particular practitioner forever.

Middleton describes the arrangement like this:

The RSA charges a contracted medical provider (currently Mountain Medical Center) rent for the building and equipment leased to it, and the provider is contractually required to meet various service standards for Ouray County citizens and visitors.

The RSA is not a medical entity and does not interfere with the operations of the provider, but rather makes the clinic facilities available, at a reduced rent, to the provider for use in a medical practice.

“The original RSA organizers understood that in order to retain health care professionals in Ouray County, they would need to ensure they were financially viable,” Middleton explained. “They sought to achieve this by acquiring and making a facility and equipment available to a provider.”

Is it necessary to continue to provide reduced rents on the clinic and equipment leased to the provider?

Middleton and his fellow RSA board members say it is.

“A taxpayer-owned and partially equipped facility assures the area of continued medical services which would generally not be available in sparsely populated rural communities,” he said.

Joel Gates, D.O., the owner of Mountain Medical Center, is the current medical practitioner contracted with the RSA to provide services at the Ridgway clinic.

But with Gates’ contract set to expire, the five-member RSA board has decided it’s time to open up the process to other medical practitioners as well, and has issued a “request for proposals” for current and potential medical providers interested in setting up a practice in Ouray County. 

Letters of intent from prospective medical providers are due by the end of August, and the evaluation process will extend through the fall. The RFP is open to all interested medical providers, including Mountain Medical Center.

“We wanted to make sure that the process of having a medical provider in place is transparent and made available to other practitioners who want to bid for it,” Middleton explained. “Hopefully we will have some good candidates. We are doing our job to make sure medical services remain available in the county. The goal is to provide the best care that we can provide with the funds we have.”

Middleton emphasizes that the RSA has no complaints regarding the current setup. “However it’s important to evaluate what’s available and make sure we make the best choice,” he said.

Applicants must have an interest in running their practice at the clinic in Ridgway, but needn’t be current residents of the county, Middleton said.

The RSA Board of Directors consists of five volunteers. Board slots that will be up for election this fall include those representing District 1 – currently held by Robert Stoufer; District 3 – currently held by Scott Middleton; and District 5 – currently held by Roger Kriegshauser. Districts equate to the five election precincts in the county.

To learn which district you live in, contact Ouray County Clerk Michelle Nauer at 970/325-4961.

Eligible electors of the Regional Service Authority interested in serving on the board of directors may obtain a Self Nomination and Acceptance form at the upcoming open house event at Mountain Medical Center on Tuesday, Aug. 14. Nomination forms must be returned to the Ouray County Courthouse prior to the end of August. 

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