Alva Review-Courier -

Planning Commission votes to deny Integris permit

6-0 decision against healthcare clinic

 

September 9, 2016



It was a full house both on the Alva Planning Commission and in the audience at the special meeting Thursday night, Sept. 8. After a tie and no recommendation at the last meeting, the commission deliberated for an hour on whether to recommend accepting or denying an application by Integris for a healthcare clinic in Alva. In the end, Wes Miller said in his opinion there was no evidence that the new clinic would not pose an undue financial hardship to Share Medical Center. He made a motion to deny the application. Chaunce Schultz seconded. As each name was called, all the commission members voted agreement – Miller, Schultz, Christie Kornele (chairman), Mary Hamilton, Matt Adair and Jerry Kohlrus.

All but two of the approximately 30 people attending were there to show support for Share Medical Center. After the meeting adjourned, people rushed the commission members to express their thanks as the two representatives of Integris quietly exited.

Alva Mayor Kelly Parker opened the meeting. He said the clinic application has been under consideration for about a year and a half. (This was the second try by Integris after the first application was denied.) Parker said it was imperative that the meeting produce a recommendation for the city council. He reminded commission members it was their “responsibility to protect the citizens of the City of Alva and their needs.”

The city council will consider the recommendation at their Sept. 19 meeting and cast the final vote on the fate of the permit application. Parker told the commission that unlike a contract, the council may not negotiate the terms of the application. He likened it to a bid received by the city council. It could be approved, rejected or withdrawn but the council could not suggest changes or make changes to the application.

He pointed out the application was broad in scope with no list of services, no transfer agreements … “the application is what it is.”

Schultz opened the discussion saying that only one of the four criteria in the ordinance was in question, the one about financial hardship.

Parker said another criteria, causing an increase in the cost of medical care, could also be in question if the establishment of the clinic caused the local hospital to close. He said the intent of the ordinance was to make sure people have hospital care in Alva, not 70 miles away.

When Kohlrus said there were no guarantees that Alva would still have a hospital in the future, even without the Integris clinic, Miller answered that the voting by the people of Alva to support the hospital with sales tax provide a kind of guarantee. He said Alva citizens have showed they want to do what they can to keep the hospital open. However, he said if “we” (the commission and the council) make it more difficult, people will say, “Enough is enough.”

At one point during the discussion, Catherine Gann from Integris tried to make a comment from the audience. Parker quickly squelched that saying the commission agreed they had enough information to make a decision already and did not need further input.

The meeting was marked by many long, silent pauses as commission members studied the material before them and thought about the situation. Finally Kornele asked if there were further discussion or if they were ready to vote. After another pause, Miller made his motion which resulted in the 6-0 vote to deny the application.

The final decision is still up to the Alva City Council. It will be on their Sept. 19 agenda.

 

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