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Pahrump Mirror
Pahrump, Nevada
January 30, 1997     Pahrump Mirror
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January 30, 1997

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/ + I I Pah'rump Valley Gaiette, Thursday', January 30, '1997 11 What is the value of a human life ? Reality closing in on Nye Regional People are going to die. It's that simple. I' ve been known to support our Nye commissioners and generally I believe they try their best to serve the needs of the community. I do not believe there is a conspiracy around ever)' comer. I've never--not once found it necessary to take our commissioners to task. The Gazette asked me to write an editorial that would present the "north" view regarding Nye Regional Medical Center. Obviously, I agreed. However, it shows me just how close we are getting to a "north/south" difference of opinion. The real difference in the Nye Regional opinion is that this one can cost lives. According to last week's paper, Nye Commissioner Cameron McRae stated that in the past "w6 have made decisions based on emotions." This was in regard to the commissioner" s discussion regard- ing NRMC and the decision to not pay vendors that by the hospital. are owed money A Northern perspective Emotional? C m O n Cameron. I've al- by Dave Downing ways respected you but this is a shotgun blast. How about going out to Coledale Junction and tell the family with their guts spread all over the pavement from an accident that this is an "emotional" issue? There were four serious accidents in this area last week. Many were treated, stabilized and flown to Las Vegas or Reno. What do you tell these folks when you shut down the facility that saved their lives? Now, that will be emotionalt How about you. Bobby Revert? Last week a father from Beatty rushed his wife up to Nye Regional Medical Center where his wife delivered a baby. Maybe the baby should have been delivered 40 miles out of Las Vegas. How about in the back seat of a cab? W 0 " " 9 Ho about y u Ira Red Copass. Are you under the pressure of your Pahrump constituents? Then, perhaps, you should better explain your own failing medical facility Sometimes, as the saying goes, the truth hurts. The truth in this case is Nye Regional Medical Center is too big for its britches. Too much money for too little worth. A losing proPosition. When the only hope for NRMC to make a financial turn around is for many more people to get sick, people with medical insurance; then now is the time to throw in the towel. Over three million dollars have been put into NRMC coffers thepast four years. Around two months ago, $1.75 million PETT dollars were funneled into the financial abyss known as NRMC and already the troubled hospital is once again drowning in a blood red sea. The population up north simply can't support the hospital. Too many beds and not enough illness. Also sad but true, there are many people throughout Nye County without medical insurance. This does not make one immune to ac- cidents or ill- ness. The only im- A Southern perspective munity offered is from paying the tab. Butwhatabout by Doug McMurdo the human ele- ment? At what dol- lar figure do we, as a society, deter- mine the major- ity is no longer willing to sacrifice for the minority? As individuals, when do we determine it is okay for strangers who are our neighbors to die so we can save a few dollars? The human element certainly poses questions that deserve consideration, Personally, this writer is not consciously willing to allow anyone to die for his bank account and knows nobody who is. But neither is he willing to allow such a substantial hmount of tax dollars go to an entity the people are unable or unwilling to support. The entire county would be in much better shape, especially in the midst of Nye County's severe, service-cutting budget quagmire, if the county commissioners significantly rediaced staff and services at NRMC. The sentiment in Pahrump, with somewhere between 20,000 and 28,000 residents, depending on who you ask, is simple and understandable: "Ira clinic is good enough for us, a clinic is good enough for Tonopah." I suspect folks living in other Nye County communities feel much the same. People go wanting for services because of the exorbitant amount of money used to bail out NRMC month after month. Back to the human element. Ninety-four employees work at NRMC. Jobs in Tonopah are about as rare as gold these days. These 94 employees represent approximately Let's knock off all this "north/south" nonsense and make an absolute final decision: Both the Tonopah and Pahrump medical facilities are the single most important things in our communities. Period. Now let' s make them work. There is no such thing in the vocabulary as "close them down,'" They must, and will, stay open. If money must be diverted from other county projects, then so be it. This is the most important. $131,000 in payroll every two weeks. If NRMC scales back to a more affordable service availability; how many lose their jobs? Thankfully, the medical field requires skilled personnel and most will be able to relocate. Make no mistake though, some people are going to suffer. But the majority will benefit. The flip side of course is the very lucrative doctor contracts. Lucrative as in over $300,000 annually for at least one doctor. The reason for the generosity? To entice the good doctor. Sweeten the pot. Make an offer he or she can't refuse. Why? Because Tonopah is less appealing than horse pookey to a doctor. The powers that draft and approve contracts make deals with the de vii. After all, what's a hospital without a million dollar doctor?The doctor is paid what he bills, not what the hospital collects. Good work Now, except in a round-about way, Pahrump taxpayers are not paying for NRMC. The NRMC tax district is comprised of Tonopah, Round Mountain and south to Beatty. Where Pahrump taxpayers feel the crunch is in the "bail-out" monies the commissioners must give to the facility. These bail-outs come from Payment Equal To Taxes, PEI"I', and/or Payment in Lieu of Taxes, PILT. This is money that Nye County receives from the federal government and reflects equivalent taxes pertaining to federal government operations in Nye County. The Nye commissioners have been very generous with this money. It has paid for library, school, museum, and senior center expansions, etc. It has also provided for for local government expansion from administrative to sheriff's if you can find it. Officials from Quorum, the health management company hired by the commission- ers almost a year ago to bring the hospital around, have said time and again that too few people use the facility. Others say they go to the hospital but are sent to other facilities in Bishop, Reno or Las Vegas. The hospital doesn't have specialists. Two sides to every story. The most common argument used by advo- cates of Nye Regional is the isolation northern residents live in. Too far from medical care. The answer to that line of reasoning is harsh but true. It is the same answer gven to the numerous residents who buy a cheap home on a dirt road and then bitch about the dust. Why, move you silly fool. If you don't want to live on a dirt road; move back to where you came from. Or, in this case, if big-time medical care is so important, as it often is, move closer to the service. A few certain risks accompany the rural life-style. The lack of full-fledged medical care is one of them. Some residents in Tonopah absolutely abuse the system. One horror story, of many, centers on one single individual with a medical condi- tion. Because of this condition, this Tonopah resident uses the ambulance service as a taxi. If he needs to get closer to the Station House Casino, he simply dials 911 and the ambulance picks him up and transports the "patient" to Nye Regional. The EMT's cannot legally refuse to pick up this deadbeat, worthless social pariah. What other abuses are going on? Just how can anybody justify 94 positions for a hospital nobody uses? The commissioners now must face the reality of NRMC's utter insolvency. The decisions will be tough and I expect at least one commissioner will be reduced to tears when Quorum presents their diagnosis and, more importantly, prognosis of Nye Regional Medical Center's condition. It looks like some kind of cancer from here. The primary concept those living outside of Tonopah embrace is one of fairness. Is it fair for the few to pay the bill for the many? In a word, no; Is it fair for the many additional funding department. That's great, except when it interferes with the single most important facility in this county, NRMC. + + There are peripheral problems also. If NRMC were shut down, or made a minimum service medical facility, then most accident victims would have to be transported to the next nearest hospital. Since we're unlikely to get a flight-for-life on most of these it means an ambulance trip of over 200 miles, Thus, for nearly eight-hours, the community is without emergency response equipment. I sympathize with the commissioners when times are toughand it's necessary to make cuts. You're going to get someone mad at you no matter what. Some tough choices must be made. But, again, let's get this straight: Hands off the noah and south medical facilities. These are the most important projects in the county. Now, I'll be the first to admit there are some serious problems with the facilities that need m be answered. Why are we constantly losingbig bucks at these facilities? Why have we been playing around with this problem for years and years and years and there is absolutely no progress whatsoever? Are we forever required to pour huge amounts of funds into this facility to keep it going? I wish I could offer up an answer. I can't. There has never been a satisfactory independent report to explain all the problems. If we ever lose federal PETT and/or PILT funds then there is no question the hospital will have to close. Northern taxpayers would be taxed more than they make for a living. Things might be a little better in the south, what with such a rapid population growth. Last week I wrote a feature story about Ron Moss, formerly ofTonopah. He came down with hantavirus and, incredibly, survived. His hospital bill was in the neighborhood of $70,000 but he didn't have to pay a nickel of it. He was broke, unemployed and finally declared indigent. Nye County paid the bill. Like most of us, Moss waited until the last minute before he went to the hospital. He couldn't afford the care and tried to fight off what he thought was "just the flu." Most of to pay for the few? Again, no. And historical precedent suggests empirically that the many never have and never will pay for the few - except at the federal level of taxation. It is fundamentally unfair for the majority of taxpayers in Nye County to be asked to subsidize the 94 employees and numerous vendors of NRMC. Hopefully, the commis- sioners will have the wisdom to think with their heads and not with their hearts. Downsizing is absolutely critical for all the citizens of Nye County. Admittedly, in a perfect world, everybody would have access to medical care and the ability to pay their medical bills. But Nye County, like everywhere else, is anything but a perfect world. us would probably have done the same thing. Even with insurance, medical care is expensive. By the time Moss finally went to Nye Regional-he was near death. He could not possibly have made it to Reno or Las Vegas. How much is the value of a human life? As long as federal money is available--NRMC must be maintained no matter what. If we lose a senior center, or a museum, or a couple less sheriffs deputies, or whatever...then so be it. I cert,ainly support all these great projects but. not at the expense of the hospital. Keep the priority where it belongs. L I I II I I I I I I I