‘We want to be the in between’: A physician’s retirement project to open urgent care in Dillon

Dr. Nizar Assi’s retirement project — an urgent care in Dillon — is pictured on Saturday, Dec. 3 2022. Construction is almost finished and the urgent care is expected to open in a matter of weeks.
Eili Wright/Summit Daily News

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Nizar Assi’s name in a caption.

Dr. Nizar Assi, a local physician, recalls a time his son was injured while skiing. 

“My son, who loves to ski trees, used to run into trees regularly,” Assi laughed. Afterward, his son would come home and complain about discomfort. Due to Assi’s medical background, he would examine his son and rarely would find a problem. 

However, Assi said on one particular occasion, his son continuously complained about a bad headache. Assi knew his son needed a CT scan, so he immediately put a request in at one of Summit County’s local hospitals. The hospital responded, insisting that his son be sent to the emergency room. Assi knew that wasn’t necessary as his son did not need immediate attention. Nevertheless, Assi complied. 

“My son had to go sit in the car for six hours to get the … scan,” Assi said. In the end, nothing was wrong with his son, but the time he spent waiting was — in Assi’s opinion — unnecessary. 

“That would be a perfect situation for an urgent care,” Assi said. 

After years of brainstorming a solution to Summit County’s limited medical resources and trips to the emergency room for illnesses that were nonemergencies, Assi is opening an urgent care of his own design in Dillon. 

Assi was born in Lebanon and began work in the United States in his 20s. He was an emergency room physician and is now a cardiologist. Since 2002, he has lived in Breckenridge with his family. 

During his first years in Summit, Assi recalled there were very limited medical options for folks to turn to — especially if their situation wasn’t an emergency. 

“I call it a need for something in between,” Assi said. “Kids will be sick, but they’re not that sick, they don’t really need to go to the emergency room and stay there for hours. So I kind of started thinking about an urgent care before there was an urgent care.”

Soon enough, Assi decided he would build an urgent care in Summit County as his retirement project. His goal was to create an efficient system that also delivered high-quality care. Assi acknowledged that Summit County can be a very transient community with many people who don’t have reliable insurance, or insurance at all. 

For the past five years, Assi has worked to get the urgent care off the ground. It was supposed to open in July, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues, the opening date has been pushed. 

In the meantime, the urgent care’s setup has been thoroughly examined and screened by Assi. 

Walk-in care will be available for minor trauma, altitude sickness or small things like cuts and lacerations. There will also be an X-ray, CT scanner, lab services and diagnostic screening equipment. Along with the in-between care, there will also be primary care resources. Assi plans to include service for those in need of a check up as well as options for those who need to be seen more regularly.

Assi also added three studio apartments attached to the building for his employees to stay in as they search for community housing. 

As for the waiting dilemma, Assi has a goal to “make things smoother for everybody.”

“We are basically going to be providing two types of access. … You can go online, and you can choose a certain time you’d like to come in, or you can look at the wait time,” Assi said. “We don’t want people to sit.”

Assi has funded much of this project from his own savings. After working with a consulting company who helped him to scope the best location, Assi chose Dillon for the urgent care at a time when he said “prices were pretty dormant.” For construction, he also acquired a loan. The rest, however, has come from his own pocket.

“It is a project that I’ve been essentially saving for,” Assi said. “I’ve been planning for it.”

He added that the urgent care is not his first health care project, so he had specific goals in line to make the urgent care possible. 

“My goal is not really the financial gain, because there’s a whole lot of things you could do to get a better return,” Assi said. “The best one can hope for is to create what I call a sustainable business — that you’re able to keep a stable workforce, meet their needs and, at the same time, provide the service in the community and create a cushion of reserves so that you can keep reinvesting in the sustainability of the business.”

After almost 20 years of planning for this urgent care, Assi is close to finishing. He predicted the location would open in December, but a solid date is still up in the air. 

“We don’t want to replace your health care provider. And we don’t we don’t want to replace the emergency rooms for taking care of those very, very sick people,” Assi said. “But we want to be the in-between link.”

Assi predicted that the urgent care will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. seven days a week. 

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