Opinion By Christi Urman
Dear CCH Board, CEO, Campbell County Commissioners,
I wish to submit my full, unwavering support of the UCHealth affiliation.
I grew up in Gillette, Wyoming. I left for about 20 years and returned 8 years ago. I know what our health system growth has meant to this community. As someone who has worked in healthcare all of my professional life, the work that the CCH team has done over the last 2 decades to bring in specialty care and reliable and trustworthy providers has changed my trust in getting treated in my own community for the positive.
As a patient of cardiology and rheumatology specialty care, I spend a fair amount of my time coordinating care between providers in Gillette as well as in Denver. You see, before moving back to Wyoming, I lived in the Denver area. My health service of choice was the University of Colorado Healthcare. Having undergone an extensive and exhaustive research initiative to find myself the best possible care I could receive, UCHealth emerged as an obvious winner. Their diversity in specialty care, multiple locations and above all, access to the most cutting edge treatment options solidified UCHealth as a leader in many specialties for the Rocky Mountain region, if not for the country. Additionally, in my professional life I had the opportunity to be one of the UCHealth vendors and I was exposed to their mature and well-thought out structure and processes. (We did not win their business while I worked for that vendor but I still gained valuable inside insight.)
When I moved back to Gillette, I needed to continue Rheumatology care. I found zero qualified providers locally to treat me with the level of care I was used to from my invaluable care team at Dr. Kolfenbach’s office at UCHealth. I was young, starting a family and I wanted the best care and options to avoid the possibility of long-term pain and disability. My team at UCHealth Rheumatology has given me that hope and the outcome I’d always dreamed of ever since receiving my initial diagnosis. They track me closely and respond immediately to any concerns or needs that I have.
After moving back to Gillette, I developed a heart condition. While the Cardiology team at CCH is extraordinarily special for a community clinic, I needed additional procedures and attention with services not available here in Gillette. I CHOSE to be referred to UCHealth for the continuation of my cardiology care. I CHOSE them because of how amazing my team is at UCHealth Rheumatology. And the best part? It was the absolute right choice. My cardiologist and electrophysiologist at UCHealth Cardiology have been extraordinarily patient, kind and supportive. My favorite part of both specialties is that I feel like I meet with a friend who happens to know medicine instead of an arrogant, pushy physician. The staff and providers that I’ve encountered at UCHealth have been some of the friendliest and down-to-earth that I’ve met in my 20+ years of working in healthcare.
The biggest impact UCHealth has made on my life is all surrounding my ability to have a full, interactive relationship with my son. You see, when I became pregnant after infertility struggles and surgeries to allow me to conceive, we were thrilled. Sadly, however, my pregnancy was wrought with silent issues. My hero OB/GYN, Dr. Jeffrey Anderson quite literally saved my life. We had a plan to fly me to Denver if the benign tumors around my growing uterus & baby didn’t move enough to safely deliver by C-section and prevent my bleeding out death. Knowing the stark reality of this risk, I CHOSE UCHealth as my location of choice should we need this option. In short, I had an “in-case-of-death” plan, complete with a binder of passwords and life insurance information for my husband should the unthinkable occur. UCHealth was hand-selected as part of that plan because of the level of care I receive there. In late stage pregnancy, I developed a severe and debilitating case of carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my wrists. After a successful birth at CCH (all thanks to Dr. Anderson’s careful hands and watch over my previous risk issue), the pain and numbness did not cease. As planned as a part of my ongoing Rheumatology care, I followed up with my Rheumatology team in February after delivering my son in January. My care team immediately responded to my carpal tunnel and sent me to be seen at UCHealth Neurology for a work up. I had full blockage in both wrists and zero response to any electrical stimulation in the nerve. My hands and wrists would alternate between a sense of literally feeling as if they were on fire and numbness in my fingertips. As a nursing mom, my hands would hurt so bad to cradle my son’s head to nurse that I couldn’t do that action unassisted by a pillow or by my husband. The worst part was not being able to use my fingertips to feel my infant son’s baby soft skin. Can you imagine? I remember on many occasions lifting him to my cheek to feel his skin. With the rapid response of both the UCHealth Rheumatology & Neurology teams, I had surgery on both wrists and by May I could finally feel my son’s skin. It brings tears to my eyes remembering this time. It makes my heart leap knowing that I had a care team that I could trust enough to help me with this immediate life-impacting situation as well as do all they can to prevent me from being disabled by my rheumatoid arthritis so I had full use of my limbs to play with my son for years to come. This is the impact UCHealth makes in patient’s lives.
The logistics of scheduling appointments, messaging my care teams, finding resource materials, logging into my patient portal, paying my bills, etc. is one of the easiest experiences I’ve had having been in multiple health systems. If you’re a patient of CCH, you likely know that our patient billing suffers major problems. It takes months to receive bills and to see your level of payment. It’s been a huge frustration point for me specifically and I have NEVER had such bad experiences with this part of my care as I have at CCH. My hope is that this affiliation will add to fixing some issues our health system seems to struggle with as well as giving access to financial and patient care enhancements as noted in public communications.
Campbell County Commissioners mentioned having spoken with members of the community about their feelings on this affiliation. Unfortunately, I privately know zero Commissioners so I never had a chance to voice my strong support for this move. Does it help the CCH financial bottom line? Yes. Does it help the UCHealth bottom line? Also yes. They’re both businesses after-all. Does it introduce non-Gillette input into our health system? Absolutely, and I urge you to expand your mind past our community being all knowing. Will it benefit you? Only if you are or become sick or know of anyone in your life who is or will. The care I’ve received from the team at UCHealth has allowed me to interact physically in the best possible ways with my 4 year old son. That is a debt I can never repay. I urge everyone in our community to consider this affiliation in terms of the value added to your family when someone becomes sick or ill.
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