Vail Daily column: Game on for medical providers | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Game on for medical providers

Don Rogers
My View

Don Rogers

First thought when hearing Centura Health declare their surveys show a need for more emergency medical care facilities in the valley: Oh, baloney.

This will be a point of direct competition among medical providers here.

My intel suggests strongly that Centura is here to pressure Vail Valley Medical Center in the wake of their efforts to buy the local hospital being rebuffed.

I'm sure all the responsible spokespeople will heartily deny this. But this would be their jobs, to spin like flaks for presidential candidates not named Donald Trump.

I tend to believe the intel. We certainly don't need another emergency room or urgent-care clinic. That's ridiculous. And talking about level this or that is a smokescreen. Nearly all of this care falls beneath the need for helicopters and trauma surgeons.

Besides, Centura has the Summit hospital and it seems only natural they'd want to scoop up Vail's, too. It's a hard go as an independent these days.

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I'm not going to say competition or more choices are bad things. Or Centura and Kaiser Permanente, also sticking a toe in our valley, have no business setting up shop here. They absolutely do if they see the opportunity. I think there's actually plenty of that.

Let's just cut the careful corporatespeak, as if capitalism didn't exist. These folks will happily eat Vail Valley Medical Center's lunch if they can.

The Medical Center folks have a fight on their hands, and they seem to know it. As with nearly all small, independent shops, the big operations can go after them with price. And Centura and Kaiser are giants. Suddenly, there's more to worry about than Glenwood's Valley View creeping into the downvalley.

You might be delighted if you view your medical care as a commodity. Just remember cheaper prices nearly always come at a cost. But at least patients can weigh the expense vs. benefits of local providers.

Kaiser, which I understand as basically an insurance company that provides medical care, will compete less directly with the Medical Center. They seem to be going after the 60 percent or so of valley residents who already go out of the county for most of their care. Economically speaking, the technical term is leakage from the local market. Tap that for medical care and Kaiser can do quite well without biting into the Medical Center's patient base.

Centura seems to be looking at much the same opportunity, other than building a medical building, making a deal with Colorado Mountain Medical to help fill it, and setting up a redundant urgent/emergency care facility.

If you don't mind being shipped to specialists in Denver, the prospect of cheaper services may appeal to you, as it already does to plenty of locals who go there for care.

Our hospital provides many of these specialists here, including at the Shaw Cancer Center, the very model for quality care at home. The association with Steadman-Philippon orthopedics and research foundation, the new heart center, move to regenerative research, the expansion of the hospital itself, and partnership with some of the nicer lodges in the "medical tourism" vein all point in a higher-end direction.

Meantime, a couple of big boys see opportunity with the mere mortals.

Which, of course, means … game on.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2920.