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Breck clinic closes temporarily

HARRIET HAMILTONsummit daily news

BRECKENRIDGE – Patients with Thursday appointments at Breckenridge Medical Center had to travel to Keystone to see their doctor, because the contract between the Vail Valley Emergency Physicians group and the Breckenridge clinic expired, leaving no physicians available at the facility.Thursday morning, Summit County Ambulance received notice to bypass Breckenridge.”This is pretty much the first time I’ve ever had to deal with this,” ambulance supervisor and eight-year veteran James Woodworth said. “We cannot transport patients to High Country Health Care’s urgent care center (in Breckenridge), so pretty much anything from the south end of the county has to go to the next closest trauma center – and that’s Summit Medical Center.”Designated by the state as a trauma center, the Breckenridge Medical Center, a joint venture of Vail Valley Medical Center (VVMC) and Denver-based HealthOne, has operated in its current location at the base of Peak 9 since 1992. Until the end of the 2005-2006 ski season, the clinic provided treatment to injured skiers and snowboarders. During the off-season, it continues to function as the town’s emergency room, in addition to providing year-round primary care. That is, until the physician contract expired Wednesday.Left without physician coverage, doctors in the Breckenridge center scrambled to meet the needs of their clients.”We called the patients who had appointments and told them Dr. Adnan would see them at the Keystone Medical Center,” clinical manager Karie McDonald said.In addition to staffing the Breckenridge clinic, Vail Valley Emergency Physicians also provide emergency medical coverage for the Keystone Medical Center, VVMC and its associated clinics in Eagle County, including the ski clinic at Beaver Creek. Physician group spokesperson Dr. Bernie Riberdy, who is also medical director of the Breckenridge clinic, said he hoped an agreement will be worked out in the near future, but emphasized his organization had no choice but to stay home Thursday.”We are currently in active discussions to make this happen, but we can’t legitimately work in a facility when we don’t have a contract,” he said. Because of confidentiality considerations, Riberdy was unable to give any specifics about ongoing discussions.Contract negotiations between the physician group and the Breckenridge clinic have been complicated by recent changes in Summit County’s health care delivery system. As part of its commitment to the new hospital in Frisco, Vail Resorts entered into an agreement with Centura Health, the hospital’s parent corporation, to provide emergency treatment for resort guests injured on the mountain in Breckenridge. This will start next season.Loss of its long-term relationship with the ski resort cast the Breck clinic’s future into doubt, and clinic staff, who are currently employed by VVMC, were unsure of their jobs. Last month, HealthOne expressed its intention to buy out VVMC’s interest in the clinic – a move which would put Denver-based corporation into direct competition with Centura Health.According to HealthOne spokesperson Linda Kanamine, negotiations for the sale of the clinic have been proceeding, with a target transition date of Aug. 1. Kanamine said physician contracts are just one issue to be resolved in the negotiation process, and Thursday’s coverage gap was unforeseen by her company.”We learned last night that the (Vail Valley Emergency Physicians) contract expired May 31,” she said Thursday. “VVMC is still the current manager until Aug. 1 – they are responsible for coverage. We thought they were negotiating an extension of the contract.”HealthOne offered Vail Valley Emergency Physicians a three-year contract with similar terms to the expired contract late Wednesday, but the group rejected the offer, Kanamine added.VVMC director of public relations Scott Boie acknowledged the Eagle County hospital is working on the problem, but was unable to give any specifics. “All I can say is we’re in very active negotiations with HealthOne and (Vail Valley Emergency Physicians) to find a contractual solution,” he said.Although they didn’t treat patients, Breckenridge clinic staff remained at work Thursday and McDonald said decisions about the facility’s status would be made on a day-by-day basis.”As far as what’s going to happen tomorrow, I don’t know,” she said. “We plan to call all our appointments. We’re not abandoning anybody.” News tracker- What we knew: Denver-based health care group HealthOne entered into negotiations with Vail Valley Medical Center (VVMC) to buy out its 50 percent share of Breckenridge Medical Center (BMC) after Vail Resorts transferred its agreement to treat injured skiers from BMC to Centura Health.- The latest: The contract between BMC and Vail Valley Emergency Physicians expired May 31, and without a current contract the physician group felt it was unable to staff the clinic. Patients with appointments were redirected to Keystone Medical Center and ambulances were diverted to Summit Medical Center.- What’s next: Contract negotiations between the physicians, VVMC and HealthOne are in progress. The day-to-day operating status of BMC depends on resolution of the outcome of these discussions. Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at hhamilton@summitdaily.com


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