DEL NORTE— During a Valley-wide visit, Lieutenant Governor Dianna Primavera visited Rio Grande Hospital on April 25, to speak with and gain feedback from hospital CEO Arlene Harms, Chief Medical Officer Heidi Helgeson, Chief Nursing Officer Candice Allen and Clinics Manager Ted Anderson as well as other members of staff and clinic supervisors in regards to recent discussions on how to save money in the Colorado Health Care system.
“We are just here to listen a lot. We know that one size does not fit all when it comes to health care. We just want to make sure we have our finger on the pulse of what is going on in health care in rural Colorado,” said Primavera as she opened the floor for discussion on the topic of rural hospitals like Rio Grande.
Primavera and her team provided literature to those who participated in the discussion and stated several times that this was just one step in the beginning of figuring out how to save residents of Colorado money on health care. According to the packet provided, “The initial roadmap proposes an agenda that would reduce health care costs while ensuring culturally responsive and equitable access to care.”
Harms began the conversation by stating that the hospital runs mainly on contributions that come from the residents of the San Luis Valley and that they do not receive the same type of funding that other hospitals in larger municipalities may receive. “We rely on our community to keep us going. This hospital started as a dream and it has been a dream that has kept us alive. We are stretched to the very end of our budget every year, but thanks to our amazing contributors, we are able to keep this dream alive,” said Harms.
“If you come out to a rural hospital as a professional, I truly believe you don’t come out for the perks or the money or the status. You come out here because of passion. I believe completely that the people you will meet today are people who are sincerely passionate about serving people. We have a deep commitment on a soul level to do what it takes to take care of a patient and a patient’s family and that is why I have chosen to be here in a rural hospital for the past 35 years,” stated Harms.
Harms explained that every single day at the hospital in rural Colorado is a constant struggle, whether they are concerned about finances or worried about a change at the state level, the staff at Rio Grande Hospital is constantly working to keep health care costs down while providing the best care they can.
Allen followed Harms’ train of thought, stating that her staff does what they can with one-tenth of the resources larger hospitals have access to. “I work constantly with the local schools to make sure that our children are educated and know that this is also a career opportunity for them. We are a way of life here in the Valley, and we work very closely with all of the health care and mental health professionals in order to offer the best of what we have access to,” said Allen.
Allen also pointed out that 70 percent of the Valley is on Medicare or Medicaid and any kind of change to that on a state level jeopardizes their ability to get proper health care. “It is just something we want you to take into consideration,” said Allen.
Primavera listened and took notes on the conversation, ending the discussion by stating that they are only in the beginning stages of looking into how to save money in the health care industry. “One of our first options is to consider where we purchase prescription drugs and how we can drive down those costs. We also want to look at hospital finances, to see where the most money is being spent and where it can be worked on. All roads lead to health and we realize how important data sharing and data collection is in the process to saving money,” said Primavera.
Harms and other staff thanked Primavera and her team for visiting the hospital and closed the conversation with a promise to meet more in the future as the work continues on launching the roadmap to saving money on health care. “We really hope that this is the start of the conversation and will be working to get this off the ground.”