Questions Raised Over Future of Health Care in Teller County

Closure of Urgent Care Clinic Signals Shock Waves

~ by Trevor Phipps ~

Several weeks ago, the town was shocked when a major health care outlet that has been a staple to Woodland Park since 1982 shut its doors for good.

Penrose Mountain Urgent Care was closed down by its parent company, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, at the end of last month, and now many are concerned about the future of the health care industry in Woodland Park.

“Penrose Mountain Urgent Care will close permanently on July 31. Primary Care, Colorado Sports & Spine, and our cardiovascular care clinic will remain open and continue to provide world-class, whole-person care to Woodland Park and Teller County communities,” the company that owns the urgent care center said in a statement. “The closure of the urgent care clinic in Woodland Park is part of an overarching strategy to expertly and compassionately care for our patients and communities where they need it most.”

People in the community are now concerned that there are not any same-day health clinics in the area. If someone needs healthcare services now, they must either go through a local primary care provider on an appointment-only basis or check into the emergency room at the UCHealth/Pikes Peak Regional Hospital.

“I think that if it comes down to it people are not going to be able to afford to go to the emergency room,” Woodland Park resident Rhonda Steckel said. “Therefore, they won’t go, which means they are not going to be taking care of themselves. And it’s very upsetting because people just don’t have that kind of money.”

Before, urgent care was a convenient place for locals to go to when they got sick or needed a simple operation such as stitching up a wound. The clinic would conduct many procedures on a walk-in basis for very affordable prices. One resident commented and said that the urgent care center was affordable because they only charge a $75 co-pay for most basic appointments.

Now if someone in the area needs a doctor on the same day basis, they must either travel to Colorado Springs or pay emergency room fees that can be hefty. Just to check into an emergency room for a medical need can cost up to $1,500. And for those that have a $1,000 deductible on their health insurance, a simple last-minute trip to the doctor can be hard for some to afford.

According to medical industry experts, the change is going to force people to utilize their primary care physicians and their facilities more often. The good news is that many health care facilities now offer ways to expedite the appointment taking process in order for them to be able to see their patients on short notice.

Representatives from Penrose St. Francis said that they now have an app that can be put on any mobile device that makes scheduling doctor’s appointments in their primary care or other provider’s facility much simpler. Patients can now request same day or next day appointments right from their cell phone.

Officials from UCHealth said that they are working on ways to speed up their processes due to the possible increase in their emergency room visits at the Woodland Park hospital. They said that they also have a system in place where patients can book same day or next-day appointments. They also offer virtual visits, and they have an online cost calculator to better assist patients.

A long-standing tradition

The news ultimately came to a surprise to local residents due to the fact that the facility has served citizens of the area and tourists/visitors for nearly four decades. In 1982, the facility opened as the Rampart Range Emergency Center, and it was located north of its last location on Highway 67 where the Woodland Park SDA Church is now.

Years later the facility changed its name to Langstaff-Brown Urgent Care Center. This happened around the same time that they moved and took over the building on the intersection of Hwy. 24 and 67, where a store called “Yellow Front” used to reside. Back in those days, the hospital had not yet been built and the urgent care facility was where many who needed prompt medical care in the Woodland Park area went to get services.

Even when the Pikes Peak Regional Hospital opened its doors, many still utilized the Langstaff-Brown facility due to its affordable same-day health care services. Many believed it would remain when it was purchased 10 years ago by new owners, and went through the name change to make it Penrose Mountain Urgent Care. During the second name change, the new owners also spruced up the doctor’s office and added a new x-ray machine.

Health care services experts say that it is best for people to use a family doctor for their medical needs. They say that seeing the same family practice doctor on a regular basis is recommended because they are cheaper to access, and they specialize in preventative care.

However, Steckel doesn’t think that depending more on primary care physicians will work in all situations. “If it is a Saturday night and I’m hurt and I need to go somewhere my primary is not going to be available,” the resident said. “I want to go to an urgent care facility get taken care of then go home and not half to pay one arm and one leg.”

Other Teller County residents have more of a positive view and think that the health care in the area will get better in the future. “I think the future of health care here in Teller County is only going to get better as we grow and grow,” said county resident Amy Cox. “I think things are just going to improve and we are bringing quality providers up here and I’m excited for the future.



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