Overcoming Challenges in Rural Healthcare Today

In Colorado, the cost of health insurance is a very hot topic right now.  It has been determined that health insurance premiums on the Western Slope of Colorado are some of the highest in the country.  Colorado’s Governor, Jared Polis has pledged to address this issue and work to drive down healthcare cost to the residents of Colorado.

As CEO of Southwest Health System, this is a goal I fully support and is consistent with what we have been working toward as an organization.  Over the past year, we have looked at every department to see where we can become more efficient and provide the same or better quality of care to our patients and provide those services at costs that more closely match what we will be paid for those services.  My concern as a healthcare leader at Southwest Health System is that whatever decisions are made to address the rising costs of healthcare, fully considers the unique nature of providing services in a rural setting.

It is very challenging as a healthcare provider to successfully operate in today’s environment especially in a rural community.  We face the same challenges as large urban providers in keeping up with the demands caused by increased regulatory requirements, but must do so with considerably less resources.  In addition, the highly specialized nature of what we do as well as the smaller pool of individuals in rural areas to fill those specialties often requires recruiting these from outside the area or contracting for these services at a considerably higher cost.

We also have to balance the needs of our community with the resources available to provide for those needs. At SHS, we strive to provide the services locally the community wants and needs.  Below are a few examples of many services SHS provides that you may not typically see in a smaller community:

  • State-of-the-Art Radiology / Diagnostic Imaging offering services that meet or exceed those offered at larger surrounding facilities.
  • We are the only facility within 7 hours of Cortez, CO that provides Barrx™ Radio Frequency Ablation treatment for Barrett’s Esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer. Kevin Matteson is trained in RFA procedures at SHS.
  • SHS stands out as a Critical Access Hospital that offers full-service prenatal, obstetrics, L&D, post-partum, and family care, while 45% of rural US counties have no hospital obstetric services at all.
  • A retail pharmacy in our Medical Office building for convenient access to get your prescriptions filled while visiting your physician.

We have been fortunate as an organization to be able to provide the level of services we are providing to the community and will continue to do so.  We also pledge to continue our efforts to be a high quality, low cost provider so we are part of the solution to controlling rising healthcare costs.

Tony Sudduth, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA
Chief Executive Officer at Southwest Health System, Inc.



Southwest Health System and Montezuma County Hospital District are holding a Public Forum at Cortez City Hall at 6pm on March 27th.  We will be updating the public on facility upgrades, health system financials, recruitment and operations.  We look forward to this opportunity to update you on our progress and answer any questions you may have.

2019 9Health Fair

For 2019, our theme is “Super 9Health Fair” because we’ve teamed up to provide health screenings and education for adults and children for the first time! Our fairs cover Montezuma and Dolores County at the following locations and dates:


Cortez – April 20th from 8am – 1pm @ MCHS

Dove Creek – April 6th

Mancos – April 13th

We offer comprehensive blood chemistry screenings. Talk to your doctor to learn about what screening is best for you.

9 health fair logo

Attend the fair:

We would love to have you participate, and there is no cost to you to have a booth in these events. Our ultimate goal is to promote health awareness and encourage individuals to assume greater responsibility for their own health. To do this, we collaborate with health care providers and volunteers to provide health screenings and interactive educational opportunities.

Registration for fair goers is online at https://www.9healthfair.org/attend/ or day-of the fair. We now accept credit cards online before the fair. You can select the blood chemistry screenings that you or your doctor would like to see.

We want to offer as many screenings as possible. If you are willing to provide one of these screenings, let us know! https://www.9healthfair.org/attend/available-screenings/

We provide ALL of the following screenings at our 9Health Fairs:

  • Blood chemistry- $35 “This screening provides baseline information on cholesterol, blood glucose, liver, kidneys, thyroid, and more. These screenings can help you and your doctor monitor your health and prevent health issues from becoming emergencies. Information from this screening can also be used to complete your employers’ Health Risk Assessments (HRA). Based on the most current research, fasting is optional for the blood chemistry screening. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER and continue to take your regular medications. Persons with diabetes, should not fast.”
  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)- $35: “The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recently recommended against routine screening of persons with a prostate with the PSA test.  Please speak to your healthcare provider if you have questions. PSA is a blood screening that measures a protein that is only produced by the prostate gland. Elevations of PSA may occur in persons with non-cancerous prostate diseases or prostate cancer. A normal PSA level does not entirely exclude the possibility of prostate cancer. A traditional manual screening, performed by a health care provider is strongly encouraged in conjunction with PSA screening.”
  • Hemoglobin A1C Diabetes Screening- $35: “A1C is a blood screening that measures your average blood sugar control for the past 2 to 3 months. The results give you a good idea of whether or not you are at risk for diabetes. For people with diabetes it indicates how well your diabetes treatment plan is working.”
  • Vitamin B12 Screening- $20: “This blood screening provides baseline Vitamin B12 levels, which play a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and the formation of red blood cells. ($20 value)”
  • Blood Count Screening- $25: “This screening gives you a general picture of your overall health by checking your white blood cells, hematocrit, hemoglobin levels, and blood-clotting abilities. Your body’s ability to fight infection, anemia, liver disease and certain cancers can be discovered with this screening.”
  • Vitamin D Screening- $50: “This screening is used to provide you with a baseline level of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a worldwide problem. Your body requires Vitamin D to absorb calcium and plays an important role in protecting your bone health. Many studies also suggest an association between low Vitamin D levels and an increased risk of certain types of cancers, nerve disease, immune disease and heart disease.”
  • Colon Cancer Screening Kit- $30: “This take-home/mail-in kit checks for human blood in the stool. Also, learn about preventing colorectal cancer, one of the most preventable cancers, and current recommendations for further screening, including who/when should get a colonoscopy.”
  • Testosterone Screening- $40: “Tests the level of testosterone in your body. This screening is for both men and women.”

Interested in Volunteering or having an Educational Booth?  Click the link to sign up!  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2019Fair  

If you are interested in volunteering or  having an educational booth, please contact Meghan Higman, RN, BSN, director of education, for more details. Email mhigman@swhealth.org 

Learn about our new partners, the Montelores Early Childhood Council at http://monteloresecc.org/