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Helping Out

Scott Miller | The Vail Daily

Nearly 25 years ago the Vail Valley started to fill with a new kind of resident – people coming to Eagle County looking for work.

The people who came to this valley found jobs in lodges restaurants and the construction industry. But many of those people didn't have insurance or were underinsured. This lack of insurance meant a lot of people ended up in the Vail Valley Medical Center emergency department for ailments as minor as the flu (which is still something you don't want to neglect). Expectant mothers often came to the emergency room after they'd begun laboring not having seen a doctor since they'd been pregnant which could have major impacts on both mother and baby.

As a result of the influx of uninsured patients Vail Valley Medical Center developed a care program in 1993. The clinic which was originally located in the bottom level of the medical center served patients from throughout Eagle County. Dr. Kent Petrie and other physicians initially volunteered their time to treat the patients of the clinic.

Eventually the Eagle Care Medical Clinic opened in a dedicated facility in Edwards. It recently received a face-lift while the medical center expanded the building. Since its inception thousands of uninsured and underinsured Eagle County residents have had a place for quality primary care.

The idea has worked and worked well.

“Everyone in our valley has the opportunity to receive quality affordable healthcare. The preventive care we provide doesn't just reduce ER visits it saves lives” said Dr. Petrie.

Eagle Care patients often don't speak English well if at all. That's why all of the clinic's front-line staff is bilingual. Many of the providers speak Spanish and translation services are available for any language.

But the clinic isn't an urgent care clinic. Patients are seen by appointment and emergency medical care should be sought at the VVMC Emergency Department Avon Urgent Care or Gypsum Urgent Care.

The clinic also has local and state partnerships which provide grant funding to cover some medical services. Uninsured women older than 40 may qualify for the Colorado Women's Wellness Connection Initiative and receive certain women's health services for free including mammograms and pap smears. Additionally many Eagle Care prenatal patients qualify for a prenatal care supplement through an Eagle County partnership.

“It is very satisfying when we can help uninsured patients find affordable solutions to their often complex medical needs. You need to be culturally sensitive as well as creative” said Petrie. “We have an incredible team of dedicated people who work hard on behalf of those in need. I am proud to work with each and every one
of them.”

By the Numbers
$3.3 million - The amount Vail Valley Medical Center spent on subsidized health services in 2011.

7499 - Patient visits to the Eagle Care Clinic.

2516 - Number of patients who made those visits.