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1/24/2013 Clinic officials remain hopeful


With the Custer County Clinic experiencing budget woes last year, it’s no surprise one of the primary goals of the five-member board of the West Custer County Hospital District for 2013 is cost effective operations while still maintaining top quality medical care for all patients.

Board chairman Joe Arbuckle, who briefly reflected on 2012, said there has been a significant turnaround in regards to the clinic’s finances.

As a result, said Arbuckle, the expected loss in 2013 is $50,000 as compared to the projected 2012 loss of $173,000.

“It’s extraordinary how things have changed in six months,” said clinic director Dave Noble. “And over the next six months, our goal is to be a leader in rural health care instead of just a player.”

Both agree that patient visits are the lifeblood of the clinic and those patients are key to the clinic becoming the medical care facility of choice for residents and visitors. “If the people are happy,” said Arbuckle, “then patient visits increase.”

Noble noted that in 2005 patient visits for the year totaled more than 7,000, and in 2011 that total had dropped to 5,000. “That is huge financially,” said Arbuckle. In 2012, the trend was upward with a total of almost 6,000 patient visits. The two attribute that uptick to the last six months of 2012 following a strategic framework that included reworking the clinic’s finances and accounting.

And, to provide responsive, top quality medical care for those patients who are returning to the clinic, teamwork and cooperation from the bottom up is key, the two said.

“It’s all about integrity in our words and actions, leadership and management, mutual respect, stewardship of our resources and teamwork,” said Arbuckle.

Arbuckle and Noble said the clinic will continue to look at its internal processes to make sure the clinic is operated as successfully as possible.

One operation being studied is the ambulance corps. “We need adequate staff to run the ambulance corps,” said Arbuckle.

Heading up the ambulance corps examination is district board member Ken Lankford.

One option on the table is to turn the Custer County Ambulance Corps over to American Medical Response (AMR) in Florence, with EMTs housed in the clinic’s ambulance barn in shifts to provide local coverage.

Arbuckle said he hopes to see a final decision made regarding the ambulance corps by May.

On Noble’s 2013 wish list is mobile mammography services, an in-house pharmacy, and veterans’ health care services. “It’s very frustrating for patients to get diagnosed here,” said Noble, “and then have to go down the hill for their medications, and other tests and such.”

Noble and Arbuckle are also exploring opportunities to bring additional health care providers to the clinic, and to update the clinic’s current phone system.

“It’s cost prohibitive to put a real person back on the phone,” said Arbuckle, “but we are constantly working to make the automatic system better.”

And, with the federal health care system expected to go into effect, Noble and Arbuckle are looking at hiring a navigator to help the clinic and its personnel wade through the new regulations in an effort to make the transition much smoother.

That navigator, said the two, would be paid for with grant proceeds.

The two concluded by saying the clinic wouldn’t be in existence if it wasn’t for the support of its staff, volunteers and community. “We have quite a strong team,” said Arbuckle. -Nora Drenner