SageWest CEO Alan Daugherty addresses County Commissioners; Plans to step back, re-evaluate health care services in the county

SageWest CEO Alan Daugherty addressed Fremont County Commissioners and a crowd of roughly two dozen citizens Tuesday morning at the weekly commissioners meeting in Lander.

“From the feedback of what I’ve received and from what I’ve read in the media the last few weeks, there have been lessons learned” said Daugherty. “It’s apparent that I’ve not communicated as thoroughly as some folks would have liked. In an effort to try to do a better job with communication, I’m here today, voluntarily, to visit with all of you, and answer any questions that you may have.”

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The recent concern with SageWest’s hospital in Riverton centers around a decision to temporarily pause blood typing, first mentioned at the County Commissioners meeting and Riverton City Council meetings on July 10th, and posted by County 10 on July 12th. 

One day after the post, July 13th, SageWest confirmed putting a six-month pause on some blood typing. 

County Commissioner Travis Becker noted that since the information came out, “most of the calls that I’ve received in the last two weeks have been in regard to the hospital situation.” Becker continued to Daugherty, “communication is going to be the key so that we don’t have these misunderstandings.” He then asked Alan, “what is the main goal for the Riverton hospital?”

Daugherty responded, “I have found myself in a position where I have to re-evaluate where we are, the services we provide, and where we provide them.”

He cited that over the last month, SageWest Riverton had seen a 90% drop in surgeries. He said that emergency room visits were down “40 to 70 percent.” When asked, he did say that business had “picked up some” in Lander. “Once I formulate my plan, after I re-evaluate the situation, then, of course, I will discuss it with my bosses. But at this point, I’m still in the process of re-evaluating the situation,” continued the CEO.

Becker wrapped up a series of questions by saying, “At this point it doesn’t sound like we have any answers, any idea when we can expect answers?” Alan replied “not at this point.”

Commissioner Clarence Thomas followed-up Becker’s questions with a few of his concerns, saying “the issue of health care for Riverton is very important. It shouldn’t take a month, or weeks, to come up with a plan. I would think a plan would be initiated within days, a week at the most, because of the emergence of the situation. There needs to be a vital understanding that this community should come first, the people of this community should come first in your plans. It is a huge, emergency, situation, and I would hope that you and those above yourself would take that into consideration for the people here in Fremont County.”

Commissioner Larry Allen addressed issues he had regarding communication with emergency responders, “they’ve had to readjust who is treating or how to handle patients. My concern is there seems to be no communication, the ambulance crews are doing what they have to do to get a patient proper care. They are getting unjust blame for loading a patient and bringing them to Lander because of the protocols that you’ve established.”

Daugherty responded to Allen that he had contacted staff members at both Riverton and Lander hospitals, as well as consulted United Blood Services, and developed a “courier service” so that blood can be delivered between the communities within 45 minutes. He also noted that Riverton patients still can receive blood transfusions, and “have never not been able to receive blood transfusions.” He added that patients can still receive surgeries, and that staff can give O-positive and O-negative blood.

Commissioner Ray Price declined to ask any additional questions, but noted he agreed with statements made by Thomas and Allen. Finally, Commissioner Jennifer McCarty said, she too, was concerned, “I think Riverton has due-cause to be in alarm” she said. “I do know that a lot of people in the area have been going to Casper, because they believe that you do not have services in the area.” McCarty also inquired about surgeries, saying she’s heard from doctors in the Riverton area that it’s been difficult putting a surgery team together.

Travis Becker concluded the round-table by asking both, when and if, blood typing is going to be restored at the Riverton Hospital. Daugherty concluded that December 13th would end the six-month timeline, but re-affirmed his “re-evaluation position,” saying “everything is on the table at this point in time.”

Becker thanked the SageWest CEO for attending and concluded with, “I want to make something crystal clear, we are not trying to run out, push out, belittle, or anything of that nature the hospital service. It’s too critical for our citizens, what we’re looking for is solutions. We need solutions, we need to take care of not just Lander, we need to take care of Riverton, Pavillion, Shoshoni, Lysite, we’re a big county, huge county. We need you here, we want you here, we just need solutions.”

A group of citizens has submitted a seven-page letter to Daugherty, asking him to “save our Riverton hospital.” The letter will be also sent to many Wyoming political figures, including Governor Matt Mead.

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