by Nelson Holmes
GARDNER- Gardner residents gathered last Wednesday to wrestle with a couple of dense and difficult issues only to have a third concern dropped into their collective laps. On the agenda were the future use and disposition of La Clinica and the ongoing struggle to keep the spring at Malachite flowing with the precious water that many local residents rely on.
Margaret Hecht called the meeting to order and laid out some of the community’s concerns with the “limbo” that La Clinica has seemed suspended in for the last eighteen months. For the sake of brevity I will try and distill, in simplest fashion, the information delivered by Ms. Hecht, Kenny Schneider (in his capacity as both a La Clinica and Hospital board member) and the concerned audience members.
As it stands, La Clinica has fallen fallow due to a cycle of dwindling use and health care costs. Mr. Schnieder mentioned, as an example, that eight appointments might be made on the one day that an MD was scheduled and, of those eight, maybe three appointments would actually show up. In essence the clinic had to scale back and, in doing so, became less of a resource to the community which would then rely on other health care resources and the cycle of entropy was begun.
The audience was also informed that the contract with the hospital was still in force and would be so in perpetuity unless the La Clinica Board should decide on a new direction. It was also noted that the hospital was continuing to pay for the utilities and insurance and that the clinic was “good to go” if and when a new direction was charted by the clinic’s board.
Hecht wondered that, since the Gardner demographics have changed and the population has aged, whether the focus might shift to the health concerns of an older community. She also suggested that there might be a profitable relationship to be pursued with another health care entity and that the relationship with the hospital may not be in the best interest of the clinic or the community.
To this Mr. Schnieder offered that all possibilities are “on the table” and he wanted to note that the new hospital CEO was sensitive to the needs of rural communities and he was friendly to the idea of bringing a doctor to the clinic. The suggestion of bringing in alternative health care providers was mentioned. Unfortunately, attempts to do this in the past failed either because of a lack of a sufficient revenue stream or the fly-by-night character of some of the providers. Next week… more on the clinic and, the Malachite water battles!