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Tonopah medical center negotiations move forward

Nye County is moving forward with the replacement for the recently-shuttered Tonopah hospital, as officials are trying to negotiate details of the future agreement between the county and provider.

On Tuesday, Nye County commissioners accepted the preliminary proposal from Reno-based Renown Health,who stepped in after Nye Regional Medical Center closed its doors due to a grim financial situation. Commissioners said they would consider the level of services proposed by Renown Health with the caveat that it stays within the collected taxes of the district and consider the lease options for the medical center at a dollar a year.

Nevada's only locally owned not-for-profit health care system, Renown Health came up with the proposal to provide a new health care model in Tonopah, whose residents now have to travel up to 100 miles to receive medical care.

Larry Trilops, senior vice president and CEO of network development of Renown Health, executed a letter of intent to Nye County commissioners on Sept. 21. Since then, Trilops said Renown Health had been working on scoping out the potential services, technical and financial support and trying to get necessary personnel to support those services in Tonopah.

During his presentation to Nye County commissioners, Trilops introduced several levels of service that included telemedicine, primary care providers and physicians and urgent care.

"We would run telemedicine in conjunction with primary care and urgent care and I think that offers a lot of services and complimentary services that the town wouldn't have otherwise if we didn't do that," Trilops said.

Imaging services would be also available and require at least X-ray services, according to the presentation.

In the meantime, Trilops said Renown Health is trying to find a primary care physician or provider that would go to Tonopah for a specific time and serve patients.

"Out of the three levels of services we are proposing to pull together, I think this one is very important. I also think this is going to be the hardest one to get together to provide this service right now," he said.

The expected annual operating loss of the levels of service runs between $250,000 to $550,000. All models are however scalable and efficiency can be gained through multiple levels of service, according to the presentation.

Trilops proposed using the hospital district tax revenues to support those losses and putting together an operating agreement.

"The touch on the scalability, where we are in with this model. I think this is something with an operating agreement, it's not let's just sign it and (let it) disappear for a year. Let's sign it, let's meet quarterly, let's review how we are doing financially with this. If there's more of something we should be doing, if there's less of something we should be doing. I think this is a private-public partnership we are talking about here and there needs to be some transparency."

Nye County District Attorney Angela Bello said that typically, the hospital district tax revenues fund full-scale hospitals and services, while Renown Health proposals don't include providing a full-scale hospital. Bello suggested consulting the tax department before moving forward with any of the proposals, all of which sought commitment of hospital district tax revenues.

"There's no legal impediment for the county to fund these proposals. The issue is hospital district (revenue) tax records, and that's where the problem was," she said.

The county and the hospital district are two separate legal entities, Bello said. While the county could use its money to fund any of Renown Health proposals, she questioned whether the district could do it too.

Nye County Commission Chairperson Lorinda Wichman disagreed with the statement.

"The (hospital) district was established with the direct help of the Department of Taxation and every other taxing district within the boundaries of the hospital district. Without their help there would not have been any revenues coming in until the next taxing cycle," Wichman said.

Previous operator PrimeCare Nevada has approximately $1.2 million in unpaid liabilities. That does not include the $2.5 million and an unknown amount in legal fees the county loaned the hospital.

"I would much rather have the property and the equipment located in Tonopah secured by that $3 million and never see a dime of it back than to have an opportunity like this fail simply because we didn't get paid back. They are going to pay it back eventually, simply by being here if nothing else," Wichman said.

In the next 30 days, the details of the arrangement will be negotiated between the hospital district and Renown Health, Wichman said. The final document will be then voted on by the hospital district in a public meeting.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. Follow @dariasokolova77 on Twitter.

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