Kirkwood switches its medical service |

Kirkwood switches its medical service

The pattern of snowstorms has impacted more than skier visits this season.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort, which experienced a slight decline over the holidays in comparison to previous years, has noticed slow growth at its medical clinic after an early opening.

“In the past, we’ve been much busier right away at this time of year,” said Dr. Nita Schwartz, who this year took over the on-site clinic that’s licensed as an urgent care center.

Kirkwood chose Schwartz’s company, Mountaintop Medical Associates, to run the clinic over Barton Memorial Hospital, which had the contract for 10 years.

This year, Schwartz — who worked as Barton’s clinic physician — believes the heavy snowfall on the roads may have prevented visitors from making it to the slopes. Those who have made it to the mountain have brought Schwartz the old standard injuries — shoulder, head and wrist.

“Snowboarding has changed the injury pattern (for clinics),” Schwartz said, awaiting X-ray results on one patient Saturday.

But this time it was a skier who broke his wrist.

“The good news is it’s not really displaced. Otherwise, you’d have to realign it,” Schwartz told John Rosendahl of Walnut Creek as he lay stretched out on a bed. Rosendahl, who skis at Kirkwood regularly, hit a tree on the mountain that morning.

The banker, who was staying at Harveys Resort Casino, said he was glad he was wearing a helmet. But he winced at having to wait six weeks for his wrist to heal.

The crew placed a splint on his arm to stabilize the fracture until he is able to see his orthopedist. He was told to hold the lower end of the splint “as if it was a beer can.”

“It’s pretty much what we do in ER,” Schwartz explained. The three-bed clinic stocks a closet of crutches, a defibrillator and a glucose meter for diabetics.

He was also sent home with an ice pack — which is often created with snow in a Ziploc baggie, an urging to take anti-inflammatories, a prescription for a pain killer and a bill — perhaps more painful.

Pain control is the priority, as the closest hospital is 33 miles away.

Like many in the ER, ski area medical clinic workers get as much of an adrenaline rush from the mountain life as the skiers, Schwartz said.

“We see all kinds of things here,” she said.

This season, Schwartz has offered free medical care to Kirkwood employees. Otherwise, the doctor and clinic operator has emulated last year’s services and kept the same equipment and employees. She’ll keep the clinic open through the ski season.

Humans aren’t the only ones needing care. That morning, a Kirkwood employee asked for some type of bandage to cover a wound on a dog.

For Heavenly Ski Resort, Barton is now offering a van transport to take the “walking wounded” from the mountain to the hospital or Stateline Medical Center.

Barton will maintain its mobile unit — a recreational vehicle — at Sierra-at-Tahoe on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The 34-foot RV, which is licensed as a community clinic, comes equipped with a gurney, X-ray facility and seating for a few people.

“It’s going well. We make the customers happy because they don’t have to come all the way into town if they’re just day-tripping to Sierra,” Barton Emergency Services Manager Mary Flores said.

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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