ER SPECIALIST (copy)

Teller County residents will have only one option for medical treatment after Penrose Mountain Urgent Care shutters: the emergency room.

Teller County’s only urgent care clinic will close this week, ending a nearly four-decade run in Woodland Park and leaving residents there with no options for same-day medical treatment except a hospital emergency room.

Penrose Mountain Urgent Care plans to shutter operations on Wednesday as “part of our large overarching strategy to how to best provide care to all of our communities,” said Andrea Sinclair, spokeswoman for the urgent care’s parent organization, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

“The motivation behind this change is really about wanting to be responsible with our resources,” Sinclair said. “And being able to meet the needs of the community as best as possible.”

The move means Teller County residents must drive down Ute Pass to receive same-day care for nonlife threatening ailments, should they want to avoid a hefty emergency room bill.

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For Debbie Rocco, who lives just a mile from the urgent care building, the clinic became a fast, economical way to get care when she couldn’t get in to see her primary care doctor. Having suffered from asthma for years, that usually meant whenever she got sick — usually twice a year. Her copay each time was $75, far cheaper than an emergency room.

Hospital emergency rooms typically charge a “facility fee” for each visit, which can cost at least $1,500. In addition, some doctors are not included in patients’ insurance networks, even if the hospital is. A law taking effect Jan. 1 aims to curtail those issues in Colorado.

With a $1,000 deductible — the amount she must pay out of pocket before her insurance benefits kick in, Rocco said the choice to go to an urgent care was simple.

“It’s scary,” said Rocco, 64. “All we have is the emergency room up here. It’s an expensive event to go to the emergency room versus the urgent care. I don’t know what we’re doing to do.”

The facility opened in 1982 as Rampart Range Emergency Center, and its name was later changed to Langstaff-Brown Urgent Care Center. And without a hospital in the area, it became a revered and vital source of care for minor and moderate injuries and ailments for residents and tourists visiting nearby Rampart Reservoir, residents said.

A decade ago, the facility changed its name again to Penrose Mountain Urgent Care and underwent a significant makeover that included a new X-ray machine, according to Centura Health.

The absence of urgent care facilities in an area means consumers need to rely more heavily on their primary care provider, said Adam Fox, of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.

Health policy experts suggest patients use family practice doctors whenever possible, because they are cheaper to access, specialize in preventative care and they can treat underlying issues that keep a person healthier in the long run.

Even so, booking a primary care appointment can be difficult in Colorado — especially for people living outside the Interstate 25 corridor — due to a statewide shortage of family practice doctors.

“It means it’s all that much more important for consumers to have a relationship with a primary care provider, so that it’s easier for them to be seen if they have something they need to get in for, that may not rise to the level of going to an ER,” Fox said.

Penrose-St. Francis’ other services in Woodland Park, including a primary care office, a cardiovascular clinic and a Colorado Sports & Spine Center location, will remain open, Sinclair said. All of them were housed in the same building near U.S. 24 and Colorado 67. Walk-in appointments are possible when doctors’ schedules permit it.

The six people who worked at the urgent care — including a nurse practitioner, an X-ray technician, a physician’s assistant, a medical assistant and two administrative employees — will be transferred to other Penrose-St. Francis urgent cares in Colorado Springs, Sinclair said.

Without her go-to clinic, Rocco said she might end up seeing those same nurses again in Colorado Springs.

The one time Rocco tried going to the hospital in Woodland Park, she encountered a four- to six-hour wait. Rather than stay, she returned home and bandaged the cut on her hand herself.

Wary of such waits or an expensive bill, she said she’ll now likely drive down Ute Pass for care.

“We need an urgent care — we don’t just need an ER,” Rocco said.

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