La Plata Medical Society
  An open forum was held Friday evening at the fairgrounds to discuss ideas for the Durango Health Collaborative. We were very encouraged by the turnout of 200-plus interested and excited people.

Niles Bruno, a retired businessman and a member of the board of directors of the collaborative, moderated and presented the development history of the Durango Health Collaborative. The realization of the need for a health collaborative began last May when Valley-Wide Health Services abruptly laid off five health-care providers because of monetary losses by the company. This reduction of care had a huge effect on availability of care in Durango, especially for displaced Medicare patients who were unable to find general-practice physicians to care for them.

The Action Coalition for Medical Excellence accepted this challenge, and several of its members began looking at solutions. This expanded into a group of concerned residents and several physicians working for the last eight months to find a solution to the health-care shortage in our community.

A local legal firm has provided guidance in solving the legal problems associated with this new approach to medical care. The collaborative is now a state-registered nonprofit corporation that is to be managed by an eight-member board of directors elected by its patient membership. The corporation will be hiring the medical providers, doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The number of providers will depend on the number of members; more patient members means more providers hired.

Dr. Fred Ochsner has agreed to be the first medical provider and has worked hard in establishing the clinic.

The location of the clinic is still undecided, but we are negotiating for offices now occupied by Dr. John Parkinson in the Animas Surgical Center on Main Avenue. Parkinson and his business partner, Dale Kneller, have been working hard trying to make this location a reality. Their dedication is gratefully appreciated.

After the history and present status of the collaborative were presented, Bruno asked for questions from the audience. The first question was, "Are there any other health collaboratives in the country?" The answer is no. We have been unable to locate other co-ops or collaboratives within the United States. There are 20 to 40 health co-ops in Canada to give health care when their government fails to provide it. Durango may be at the forefront of the United States solving its Medicare "problem."

There is a one-time fee of $100 per person and annual dues of $240 per person. The dues may increase or decrease as determined by the board of directors. If there are any profits they will be reinvested in the collaborative. Members must provide their own insurance coverage. The collaborative is not an insurance company, and should not be confused with a company providing comprehensive medical financial coverage. The clinic will be open to Medicare and all other patients.

Membership applications can be found in the Durango Health Collaborative weekly advertisement in The Durango Herald. We hope that this can become a solution to the accessible medical-care problem in Durango.

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

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