County restores throat treatment service

The Mesa County Health Department has reinstated throat culture and treatment services, five months after ending those screenings and passing them along to private physicians.

Health Department Director Jeff Kuhr said the department received a number of calls from citizens who were disappointed with the June decision, which cited local physicians’ offices preference to test and manage their own patients. To avoid duplicating services or compete with the private sector, Kuhr said the Health Department diagnosed patients and referred them to their doctors for treatment or to get a prescription.

But Kuhr said the Health Department discovered many people were uninsured, had high deductibles or owed large medical bills and couldn’t see their doctors.

“This has become an access issue,” he said.

In addition, he said, the Health Department was devoting a significant amount of staff time forwarding strep throat diagnoses to patients’ doctors. Under that system, he estimated the county was spending $25 a patient.

Health officials now will provide throat cultures and a prescription for a basic antibiotic. Patients who want additional treatment will be referred to their doctors. That service will cost the county roughly $15 per patient, Kuhr said.

“I’ve found since I’ve been here I’ve made a couple of mistakes, and this was one of them,” Kuhr said, referring to the previous decision to cease offering throat cultures.

A throat culture will cost a patient $20, and payment in the form of cash, check or debit card is due at the time of service. The Health Department can bill Medicaid, Rocky Mountain Health Plans and CNIC Health Solutions.

Throat cultures are available Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Health Department, 510 29 1/2 Road.

The county provided 1,400 throat cultures in 2010. Twenty percent of those were positive, Kuhr said.

“It’s not a money-maker by any means, but it’s one of those basic screening services we’ve done for a long, long time,” he said.


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