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Tonopah medical services to expand

A new health care provider might be coming to Tonopah as the town is looking for more comprehensive health care coverage, officials said.

The Northern Nye County Hospital District board of trustees recently approved a development and professional services agreement with Premiere Medical Group, LLC doing business as Central Nevada Regional Care (CNRC).

The contract is contingent upon the hospital district and Renown Health exiting their current professional services agreement. Tonopah has approximately 12 months left of the agreement with Renown, which was for 36 months. The proposed contract with Premiere Medical Group, LLC would last five years, according to the documents.

Renown Health, a Reno-based not-for-profit health care provider, has been in Tonopah since May 2016. Renown stepped in after former Nye Regional Medical Center closed its doors in September 2015 due to its grim financial situation leaving Tonopah residents more than 100 miles away from the nearest hospitals in Hawthorne, Nevada and Bishop, California.

Karmin Greber, a board member of the Northern Nye County Hospital District, said that negotiations about early contract termination with Renown have been “very positive.” She declined to comment on how soon the contract with Renown will be terminated.

“The town, the community, the whole district, requires a higher level of care for our constituents and visitors. We need to move in the direction of urgent and emergency services and within the special services agreement we have with Renown, they have a different scope of work, which is primarily hinged upon telemedicine.”

Renown has ramped up its services in Tonopah since coming to town. It started with telemedicine and on-site lab testing and added an X-ray, urgent care and treatments and follow-ups for work-related incidents to its array of services. In late 2018, it recruited a full-time physician’s assistant after several years of attempts to bring a full-time medical professional to Tonopah.

“Over the last three years, the Renown Health team has worked together with the Northern Nye County Hospital District Board of Trustees to address the health care needs of residents,” said Gary Beck, director of Rural Health Services for Renown Health. “Renown respects the hospital district’s desire to best serve the needs of the community. We remain willing to partner with the Northern Nye County Hospital District to help serve residents in Central Nevada and collaboratively work toward a smooth transition of services.”

Tonopah currently doesn’t have a full-time medical facility. It has proven to be challenging to open a new full-time hospital in a rural community that doesn’t have a big enough population to pay for 24/7 medical care.

“Overall, the health of our communities has declined because of the inability to access routine care as well as the emergency care which we are trying to provide from transports to other locations,” Greber said.

The town has also faced difficulty with attracting new employees from outside the area who are often unwilling to move to the area that doesn’t offer a full-fledged hospital, she said.

“It’s very difficult to recruit employees from outside the area when to their perspective there isn’t health care. We have a measure of health care but it doesn’t meet the needs that they would traditionally expect, so that adds a burden for the employer …, and some of them bring their providers to fill that gap for their employees,” Greber said.

While Tonopah’s economy is tied to mining and its location along a major travel route between Las Vegas and Reno, employers still keep coming to the area.

“The need for this advanced plan for medical services is necessary to support these individuals who come because of the natural resources. They won’t stop coming and mining in our area, for example, but they will suffer because they are not able to maintain their level of medical care,” Greber said.

Tonopah could get more services

Premiere Medical Group, LLC has already provided Northern Nye County Hospital District with potential development and professional services agreement outlining the delivery of health care services for Northern Nye County.

“Some of the features that impressed our board include a patient education office, which is to advise and assist a patient with understanding their insurance coverage … there’s a feature for on-site processing of more lab and diagnostic testing rather than having to send them away for basic and advanced tests. They will also provide a pharmacy to a degree. There will not be a pharmacy, but they will have medications on hand when you need them,” Greber said.

There is also going to be a full-time medical professional on-site, Greber said.

Under the current proposal, CNRC will utilize the clinic at the former Former Nye Regional Medical Center. The hospital building is currently being assessed for renovation, remodel or reconstruction.

“They have committed to providing extended clinic hours with urgent care services, including a 24-hour activation process that will help bridge the gap between urgent care and emergency. In other words, at any time of the night or the day, seven days a week, if you need medical services in Tonopah you will be able to activate the services and the provider will meet you at the facility and provide those services for you,” Greber said.

However, Tonopah will not get a full-fledged hospital. Greber said the hospital model “is not within our grasp at this time.”

“It’s going be scheduled hours where you can schedule to come in or walk-in but the after hours, when they are closed, there is going to be an activation process where citizens would be able to request care when they need it,” Greber said.

“They are not going to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but you will have that access at the time you need it and they will come and respond at the facility,” Greber said.

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