Rx: Healthy discourse

It’s about time that the heads of Community and St. Mary’s hospitals in Grand Junction break bread together.

As detailed by The Sentinel’s Greg Ruland on Sunday, the heads of the nonprofit organizations haven’t spoken in months as they have charted increasingly competitive courses for their institutions.

The Grand Junction Model, as it’s been called in health-care reform discussions, has been characterized by cooperation and communication among care providers, all aiming to improve health outcomes for individual patients. Indeed, we all enjoy unusually good health-care offerings for a community this size partly due to this legacy of cooperation.

To be clear, competition is not a bad thing. In the context of community health care, however, it can lead to cost-inflating outcomes, such as duplications of expensive services and expensive medical devices. For example, does this area really need two hospitals equipped to deliver babies, both of which must maintain anesthesiologists, among other costly service providers, 24-7?

That’s why we feel better communication between our hospitals is paramount. Grand Valley residents long ago concluded that a blend of competition and cooperation was the best approach to curing health-related issues in the most populous area between Denver and Salt Lake City. The largest, but, to be sure, not so large as to constitute a battleground for unfettered competition. It might be that no such place exists anywhere. Certainly if one does, western Colorado isn’t it.

So it is that Community, St. Mary’s and several other health-care-related organizations in the Grand Valley years ago settled into a system in which they generally found ways to coexist, sometimes cooperate and, when faced with outside threats, combine forces.

The relationships aren’t simple and, to be sure, they have resulted in plenty of disputes, some of which have boiled over into public discourse.

Each time, however, heated passions have been cooled and agreements have been reached that allow for all the participants to move along, even if not completely happily.

Cooperation among our important health-care players is especially important in this moment of uncertainty around the continually shifting implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Though we cannot control the ACA, our hospitals working together (within the bounds of anti-trust law) could yield serious cost savings for this community in the realms of preventive care, wellness programs and follow-up after illnesses.

We are thoroughly convinced that these nonprofit hospitals are both guided by very similar principles related to enhancing the health-care outcomes for the populations they serve. We hope they sit down, once again, knowing first what connects them and not what divides them.

 


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