Carson-Tahoe Hospital considers move to Tahoe Basin
Administrator Steve Smith said a move by Carson-Tahoe Hospital to the Nevada side of the Lake Tahoe Basin would not be in direct competition with Barton Memorial Hospital.
Carson-Tahoe trustees recently directed Smith to start looking into options that could establish a presence for the Carson City hospital on the South Shore.
“There are some services that Barton does not provide and the majority of those patients are going to Reno,” Smith said. “We would like to intercept some of those patients. We would like to market those speciality services to South Lake Tahoe.
“People would like to fan the flames of competition between Barton and us, but they don’t really exist,” Smith added. “We don’t think we’re going to impact Barton’s patient base that much by going to the lake.”
Smith explained that two years ago the hospital board defined the Douglas County portion of the lake’s shore as part of its market area. How the hospital is going to serve that market is still undecided.
“We could start our own clinic and take specialists up there or buy an existing practice,” Smith said. “The third alternate is to market hospital services through the newspaper and direct mailing. There are some patients – a small percentage – that for some reason or another don’t want to go to Barton, and right now they are going to Reno. We think we could be a provider of choice.”
Smith said Carson-Tahoe previously didn’t have enough doctors to serve those patients, but that situation has changed. In the past five years, Smith said the 128-bed hospital has recruited 63 doctors and specialists and opened a 20-bed rehabilitation center.
William Gordon, chief executive officer of Barton, said he believes Carson-Tahoe’s plan is a reaction to Barton’s opening the Carson Valley Medical Center outside of Gardnerville in 1993.
“I think they’re being really shortsighted,” Gordon said. “It’s not a good use of limited health care dollars. Tourists and residents are not going to drive to Carson City if the services are offered right here.”
Smith agreed with Gordon’s assessment of tourists as potential patients for Carson-Tahoe.
“Tourists are going to stay up there for whatever their immediate needs are or go home,” Smith said. “We’ve determined that the tourists are not really our market.”
However, Smith said his hospital is looking for a strong relationship with the casinos at the lake and casino employees who work at the lake, but live in the valley. In regard to the drive time, Smith said in good weather there is not much time difference between traveling from the Nevada side of the lake to Barton and traveling to Carson-Tahoe.
Smith said a final decision to enter the lake market has not been made. Gordon said regardless of what Carson-Tahoe decides, Barton’s board of directors has been discussing for months the need for Barton to establish a presence in the casino corridor and Round Hill redevelopment area.
“When we passed our budget last month that was one of the major areas the board wanted the administrative staff to work on,” Gordon said. “We will have a presence down there. We are looking for the appropriate location and having discussions with our own medical staff to work with us down there. It’s an area that has been given high priority – an area that we should make some decisions on very soon.”
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