Press release below regarding the current update on the community’s Home Health and Hospice services.
May 24, 2021
Contact: Jen Fanning
Hot Sulphur Springs, CO – Grand County desperately needs home health and hospice services, yet these are glaringly missing. In the past 5 years, Grand County has seen the provider of these services change in 2016, and then disappear entirely in fall 2020.
Home Health and Hospice are services that include licensed care services such as nursing, occupational and physical therapy services in your home. Home Health services are primarily used for recovery from hospital visits and surgeries including wound care, medication distribution, etc. These services are also vital for home-bound individuals with ongoing medical needs, including people who are physically and developmentally disabled, elderly, and those with chronic medical needs. Hospice is palliative care for people at the end of life, meaning these important services provide medical care to someone with a terminal illness and help them live as well as possible for as long as possible.
Northwest Colorado Health announced to its partners in late September 2020 that they would cease providing Home Health and Hospice Services in Grand County effective November 15, 2020. The Grand County Rural Health Network and Middle Park Health have worked since then with several partners to identify a workable solution and get our community these vital services as soon as possible. We have outreached to many licensed Home Health and Hospice agencies in the state to expand their services to Grand County. We believe we have identified one that is interested and able to expand.
Unfortunately, the issue is complicated and is not as easy of a fix as just expanding. Home Health and Hospice are some of the most regulated sectors in health care. This means the strict rules and regulations create unintended barriers to implementing these programs, especially in rural communities. The very rules that are intended to protect the home-bound and terminally ill patients often make it more difficult to provide the care than not.
For example, an agency that provides Home Health and Hospice services has to be able to provide the same level and type of care in ALL of the communities where they are licensed to provide that care. This means that the agency that wants to expand to Grand County has to be able to provide the same level of care in Grand County as in Denver or as in Summit County.
Also, reimbursement rates are extremely low and do not cover the cost of licensed care staff, such as the nurses and therapists. And reimbursement rates are slated to be reduced even more July 1, 2021. Additionally, agencies are not reimbursed for their drive time to and from the homes, as well as mileage. In urban areas, Home Health and Hospice agencies can see several patients at once in retirement communities or senior living homes. This is a clear disadvantage for rural communities where staff have to see patients in Winter Park, Grand Lake and Kremmling all in the same day.
Another disadvantage for rural communities is the overall low population. Our Home Health and Hospice agencies typically see 120-140 people per year. These are vital services for those people. However, that number is not enough for an agency to break even. In fact, each year, the past Home Health and Hospice agencies serving Grand County experience a loss between $100,000 and $150,000 per year. This large annual loss, combined with all the restrictions, makes it difficult for any agency to want to commit to providing services in our county.
Grand County Rural Health Network and Middle Park Health are working diligently on this issue. We are committed to finding a solution now for our community members desperately needing these services. And we are committed to creating a long-term, sustainable solution for our community so we are not in this same predicament in 5 years.
We know there are many people interested in being a part of the solution. We do plan on working with all of you, but are not yet at the point of being ready to pull the community together. If you are interested, please sign up here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HH-Hospice
About Grand County Rural Health Network
Grand County Rural Health Network offers access, resources, and support for all of our neighbors to lead their healthiest lives. The Rural Health Network is a nonprofit organization that serves both Grand and Jackson counties in CO. Our dedicated staff works in partnership with health providers, businesses, and community members to improve the future of health in our community. We believe everyone has the right to health care and to understand how to access that care. We also understand that health is more than health care. We work to educate our neighbors and help them navigate the system to ensure they have the information and services they need to live their healthiest lives while also advocating for and working towards improving the system for everyone.
About Middle Park Health
In the decades following its humble beginning, Kremmling Memorial Hospital continued to expand to better serve the surrounding communities. Today, Kremmling Memorial Hospital District operates under the name Middle Park Health and formally Middle Park Medical Center. MPH-Kremmling is designated a Critical Access Hospital, and boasts the first Level IV trauma center in the state. To further address continuing population growth, the medical center’s publicly-elected board of trustees finalized construction of a second facility, Middle Park Health, in Granby in 2013. That same year, MPH contracted with the North Park Medical Center in Walden to offer services to this region. Middle Park Health is proud to reflect a growing array of services for our multi-county communities.