Desperate for a doctor, one rural county gets creative with a unique financial reward

Medical
A rural Colorado town hoping to lure a new doctor is offering a five-room medical clinic for $1 a year rent.

Interested in taking over a medical clinic for $1 a year? There’s one catch. You’ll have to move to Park County in rural Colorado, an area that's desperate for a doctor to reopen a clinic that closed three years ago.

The calendar that hangs inside the clinic is from 2014, when Katherine Fitting, M.D., decided to retire because of health reasons and hoped a new doctor would take over the South Park Medical Group in the town of Fairplay, according to 9News.

But so far there have been no takers and, to make matters worse, a nurse practitioner who operated part-time out of a trailer closed in December.

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“We are left with zero options as far as care. We have no physicians, no nurse practitioners, no hospital. We are out in the wilderness, kind of on our own,” Fitting told the news station.

RELATED: How rural hospital closings weaken the nation's health

Rural communities continue to be hit hard by a primary care physician shortage, and financial and technological struggles are putting the future of rural hospitals in doubt. Specialists are in short supply, too: Despite federal law that requires every emergency room in the U.S. to treat women in labor, some women are still turned away at rural facilities or treated at hospitals that lack an obstetrics specialist.

RELATED: Medical clinic brings healthcare back to a rural Colorado community

In a county of 16,000 people that’s nearly the size of Delaware, people often delay medical care rather than drive 80 miles over a mountain pass to the closest medical services. Officials from the area are hoping to create the right set of incentives to bring a doctor to the five-room clinic in the Rocky Mountains, a building owned by the town after the community raised $600,000 to build it.

"Give us a dollar, we will give you a clinic,” said Fairplay’s mayor Gabby Lane.

The town plans to ask voters next fall to create a healthcare district that would raise money through a sales tax to offset some of the clinic’s costs, and the county has offered money from a discretionary budget to help with startup costs. 

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