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Jacobs: Looking at possible medical options for Tonopah


I visited Pahrump for only the second time in a year last week and got to see all of the growth in Nye County’s largest community.

Besides viewing construction, heavy traffic and big-box retail stores, I also spotted the local urgent care center along with sign for Pahrump’s community hospital, Desert View.

Tonopah, which lost its only hospital when Nye Regional Medical Center closed 18 months ago, does not have an urgent care. When I checked with the folks at Renown Health of Reno earlier this winter, I asked where things stood on a possible urgent care or emergency room for Tonopah.

“We are continually evaluating what additional care is most important to the community,” Renown said. “Providing crucial services that are still sustainable is one of our top priorities.”

Renown, which operates Reno’s major hospital, Renown Regional Medical Center, opened a telemedicine office in Tonopah last June. This fall, it began offering laboratory services in town. Locals are hoping for an eventual emergency room and urgent care, saving long trips to Bishop, California, Hawthorne in Nevada’s Mineral County, Las Vegas, Reno and Fallon.

Word in January of a proposed $10 billion Reno-to-Las Vegas high-speed passenger/freight train with a stop in Tonopah is leading to some big thinking in terms of expanded medical services for Tonopah.

“Earlier, I mentioned that we have a problem because we don’t have medical (hospital) in Tonopah anymore,” town board member Roni Link said during a project briefing.

“How can you benefit us in that way?” Link asked Silver Bullet rail systems official Rob Lauer.

He responded, “One idea would be we could have a small single, van-sized train, and we could store it here. If you guys needed to put an emergency patient on there, we could ship them right to” a hospital.

Other examples of mobile medicine are out there. They include the Mammovan breast-cancer screening vehicle, which stops in Tonopah and Round Mountain later this month and a Las Vegas-based health clinic on wheels that stopped in Hawthorne this past summer.

Last week, the Miami Herald ran a Washington Post story headlined “Urgent care on wheels: Fire departments rescuing patients from costly ER trips”.

The story detailed a mobile medical program to free up ambulances and crews for emergencies.

“Firefighters in Maryland’s Prince George’s County visit or call her [patient] at least once a week in a county project that is part of a growing effort nationwide to rethink 911 services that would reduce non-emergency calls, plug gaps in health care and cut costs to taxpayers, patients and insurers.”

Similar programs were found in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Arizona and the Fort Worth, Texas area.

Matt Zavadasky, chairman of a national committee on mobile health, told the Post that at least 230 EMS systems in the United States have programs operating as “mobile integrated health” or “community paramedicine.”

John Sinclair, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, told the newspaper that community paramedicine will become more urgent as aging baby boomers continue to strain a system already short on primary care doctors and nurses.

“Building a long-term financial model for that could take legislative action,” the Post reported.

That is similar to Nevada where communities are not mandated to have an ambulance service.

Nye County officials last summer mentioned the possibility of seeking state legislation for ambulance services, which then would get a dedicated stream of funds. Nye County also mentioned the possibility of linking that with the Northern Nye County Hospital District, bringing expanded medical services to Tonopah.

If you have any thoughts on urgent-care style mobile medical services or how they would work in our rural region, please drop me a note. I might share your ideas in a future column.

Until next time, have a great week.

Contact reporter David Jacobs at djacobs@tonopahtimes.com

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