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The Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center board approved an expansion in taking over operation of the Custer County Medical Clinic (CCMC) in Westcliffe during its Tuesday, Oct. 22 meeting.

HRRMC has been providing some services to the facility, including direct access to laboratory testing, since May.

Custer County Medical Center asked HRRMC to take over the operation of the center as a free-standing Rural Health Clinic (RHC). The West Custer County Hospital District (WCCHD) currently subsidizes the clinic because of the cost of providing services relative to the Medicaid and Medicare-based reimbursement for those patients.

HRRMC will take over the operation of the Custer County Medical Clinic. (Courtesy photo)

HRRMC qualifies  for hospital-based rural health clinic reimbursement for physician and mid-level provider services, lab and radiology services. The board report pointed out that the fee schedule reimbursement for free-standing RHCs like CCMC is significantly lower than cost-based reimbursement for hospital-based RHCs.

The agreement summary noted that the Colorado Rural Health Center analyzed the efficacy of having HRRMC establish a hospital-based RHC in Westcliffe. That analysis showed HRRMC would incur a net loss of more than $61,000. To offset the loss, the WCCHD agreed to reduce the facility rent from more than $35,000 per year and agreed to subsidize HRRMC up to $175,000 annual from collections from their taxing district.

The analysis showed HRRMC should realize a gain of more than $148,000 from operating the health clinic in the CCMC building. The WCCHD also agreed to fund up to $300,000 should HRRMC’s loss exceed the $175,000 annual subsidy. The agreement should allow HRRMC to update equipment and maintain positive operating margins in the Westcliffe facility.

In addition to the services currently provided, the future expansion would also include pharmacy services, with the soon-to-be-open retail pharmacy allowing prescriptions electronically ordered and delivered by courier each day the Westcliff Health Center is open.

The assessment noted other upsides for HRRMC taking over the operations of the Custer Rural Health Clinic. The report said these include potential increased patient volume and increased patient volume for the physician specialists located in Chaffee County, access to a broader spectrum of specialists coming to the Salida Hospital District, and the enhanced ability to achieve its mission to be a true regional health provider.

The agreement, said CEO Bob Morasko, can be terminated within one year without cause and within 90 days if the promised financial support does not materialize.

At the direction of board chair Debbie Farrell, the board was also given material on the guidelines and district policy for dealing with out of district medical clinics. Among the considerations is that clinical and administrative staff can visit the clinic without undue hardship, adequate administrative capacity to handle billing and financial management, and information technology demands.

In other action, the board approved the construction of a 60-space  employee parking lot deemed necessary due to the recent expansion of services.

The board also approved capital purchases during the meeting. Those expenditures include an ultrasound system and steam-heated washers and disinfection units for Surgical Services, two computers servers for disaster recovery at the Buena Vista Health Clinic, transport ventilators for Cardiopulmonary and sinus scopes, procedure and exam chairs and a surgical drill for the Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic, among other items.