The Future of Healthcare in Our Communities

September 7, 2018

Over the last several weeks, there has been a lot of conversation across about the future of healthcare here and, specifically, the future of SageWest Riverton.  I want to address many of the issues I have heard.

I’d like to begin by thanking everyone for their concern, their candor and their questions. I appreciate the passion that you all have, and I am grateful that you are willing to provide feedback to us.

I first want to address this idea that SageWest Riverton is at risk of closing – that the hospital needs to be “saved.”

This could not be further from the truth. We have never communicated an intention to close the hospital. In fact, what we have been doing is putting a great deal of effort into figuring out how best to ensure both SageWest hospitals thrive today and into the future.

When I arrived at SageWest almost two years ago, we began a thoughtful process to evaluate our system, the services we provide, and the changing needs of our communities. I engaged a number of community leaders, and we talked to key stakeholders and examined a lot of data including service utilization and population health trends.

This was a deliberate and thorough undertaking – one that we knew we could not get wrong because SageWest’s first priority is and always will be ensuring that people of all ages throughout our communities have access to high-quality care close to home.

This analysis was a vital step in what is a very tough healthcare environment – especially in rural communities like ours. There is constant innovation and updates to standards of care. There is new technology we must invest in for the good of our patients. Reimbursement is declining.  We are facing staffing shortages nationally.  How we deliver care is fundamentally changing. I can’t tell you today exactly what it will look like in the years to come because it is, in many ways, still an evolution.   

But, I can tell you what is in store for SageWest, of which the Riverton campus is an integral part.

After much deliberation about our community’s needs and how we could best serve those, we have decided to continue to offer at Riverton all services we currently provide there today – from emergency, medical/surgical and intensive care services to imaging and diagnostic lab services.

As part of this, we will be taking several steps to strengthen the Riverton campus – and our system as a whole. This includes aggressively recruiting clinicians and nurses for both campuses including general surgeons who can offer 24/7 surgical services at Riverton, a neurologist who can re-open an inpatient physical rehabilitation unit for Fremont County, and new primary care providers. We also will be launching telehealth services to enhance the care people can access locally. Additionally, we will be restarting our cardiovascular program to bring cardiac care to Fremont County and launching an endovascular program, which will start the end of this month.   

As I’m sure some of you have noted, one service not mentioned in our future plans is obstetrics at Riverton. Eliminating OB services was a very difficult decision for us, but it was the right one, and we do not have any plans to restart these services in Riverton.

I’d like to thank the members of our working group for their input, perspective and dedication to SageWest and the future of our health system. This group includes:

  • Mike Jones, SageWest Board of Trustees Chair

  • Senator Eli Bebout

  • Representative David Miller

  • Representative Tim Salazar

  • Mayor Lars Baker

  • Mike Bailey, SageWest Board Member

  • Tony Tolstedt, Riverton City Administrator

  • Alan Moore, Economic Development Riverton

  • Kevin Kershisnik, Economic Development Riverton

  • Jim Davis, Riverton Chamber of Commerce President

  • Travis Becker, Fremont County Board of Commissioner’s Chair

We believe this is the right path forward for our community and are excited to finally be able to discuss this plan in more detail.

Thank you, again, for your commitment and your feedback on SageWest and where healthcare is headed for our communities. We share this commitment. We know how important what we do is to the health and wellbeing of our neighbors, friends and family members. This is why we are working so hard to strengthen our system – our Riverton and our Lander campuses – for the future.

We need your partnership now more than ever. Healthcare involves many choices, and when you choose SageWest for your care, you help us ensure access to quality care locally, provide care for those in need, fuel economic development, and contribute to the prosperity of our communities.

I look forward to a bright future and continuing this important conversation.