La Plata Medical Society
  We have a chance to improve the way medical care is organized in the primary-care physician's office. Really! Patients can participate in their medical care. This could be a model for other clinics in our country. Let's make it work right here in Durango.

For the past 12 months, eight concerned citizens and doctors have been meeting weekly to establish the Durango Health Collaborative. This was in response to a critical local shortage of primary-care physicians last summer.

The Durango Health Collaborative is a nonprofit corporation registered in the state of Colorado, and is owned by the patients. It will be run by an elected board of directors. The collaborative clinic will hire the physicians and other providers.

The clinic will bill insurance companies for the physicians' services. Collections will help pay the overhead and the providers' salaries.

There is a $100-per-person membership fee which is being used to help with the "start-up" costs. Dues of $240 per year per person will allow for a wellness clinic, 24/7 nurse access and other benefits not available at other clinics. Patients can decrease or increase these dues annually through their board of directors.

During the last two months, there have been four open forums with as many as 200 people in the audience. An informative TV program was taped for Durango Community Access Television. Weekly newspaper ads, a forum at Fort Lewis College and radio announcements have kept the collaborative in the public's attention.

The Durango Health Collaborative now has 250-plus members but needs many more. Everyone who hears about the clinic likes the idea of the patients being involved with their medical care. The committee often hears, "It's a great idea and I'll join soon." But the memberships are not mailed in. "I'll wait until it opens," is another statement heard, but if everyone waits, it will not open.

Some people are waiting for the state of Colorado or the federal government to solve their medical problems. It will never happen. The state is bankrupt, and the federal government expects the Medicare rolls to double in the next 15 years. A "single-payer" system may be an answer, but it will not happen in our lifetimes.

You have a chance now to take control of your primary medical care and guarantee a physician in the future.

Contrary to popular belief, membership is not limited to Medicare patients but is open to all self-pay, private insurance and Medicare patients. Join now. Tell your friends and neighbors to join.

Send your name, address, phone number and a $100 check to:

Durango Health Collaborative, P.O. Box 909, Durango, CO 81302

Dr. John N. Withers is a practicing general surgeon in Durango.

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