Why Tom Long erupted over hospital negotiations | SummitDaily.com

Why Tom Long erupted over hospital negotiations

In the great Summit County health care debate now underway, many people are calling for a new hospital and medical office building to offer care exactly as there is today in the complex on School Road and Summit Boulevard in Frisco.

This is where the Denver-based, not-for-profit, Catholic faith-based Centura/St. Anthony’s runs the medical center under the tenants of Catholic doctrines, and an independently operated doctors office building offers care and advice that can extend to reproductive issues.

Reproductive issues are the hitch in a Catholic, faith-based hospital.

County Commissioners Tom Long and Bill Wallace agree the system, as it exists today, works fine – a fact lost in the recent blowup stemming from frustrating negotiations with Centura/St. Anthony’s.

Long, in particular, erupted in a spew of quotes about how Catholic doctrines should not control health care in Summit County and force citizens to look elsewhere when care involves reproductive issues.

In short, he mixed politics and religion.

As it turns out, Long and Wallace were reacting to a Centura/St. Anthony’s negotiating stance that called for it to control both a new hospital and the medical office building. And Catholic doctrines would prevail throughout.

“All I am saying, and this point was being missed, is that we need to keep options open for the future,” Long said. “I don’t have an issue with what is happening today.”

If Centura/St. Anthony’s controls the whole campus, options for health care are closed, Long said.

Long said in the aftermath of his outburst, Centura/St. Anthony’s now is willing to talk about terms that could re-create the system and relationships offered today.

The Summit County Board of County Commissioners is leading the charge for better medical care because it controls the biggest factor – land.

As envisioned, the new medical campus would sit on 17 acres of public land at the County Commons. Summit County does not yet own the land, but expects to acquire it in a pending multi-faceted land trade with the U.S. Forest Service.

Long said his outburst after a trip to Denver to visit St. Anthony’s Central was born in frustration that Centura/St. Anthony’s was “giving no quarter” and would not talk about reproductive issues and the kind of care that would be offered.

“It got to the point of having to build a separate but equal facility, but that doesn’t make sense in a county this size,” Long said.

“When we will put public property under something, there is a higher duty to the public about what will be offered at that facility. We cannot leave out a slice of care.

“I have been listening to this since 1996. I suddenly shot my face off. I am guilty of that,” Long said.

The idea behind a new hospital to replace the limited medical center on School Road is to offer locals and visitors more types of care and keep them off the road to Vail and Denver.

This is especially the case for high-priced procedures which earn hospitals money to help cover less profitable and charitable care.

“If we don’t get a hospital in here, we will be cherry-picked and never get one,” said Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula.

Mamula said a Catholic system hospital has its issues, but one benefit not to be forgotten is the offer of charitable care.

Long noted that a new hospital will still be sending trauma cases to more advanced facilities.

“No matter what, it will still be pack and wrap. The extreme trauma and big bucks will go to Denver, in that sense,” Long said.


Jim Pokrandt can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 227, or jpokrandt@summitdaily.com.

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