HEALTH CAREThe staff at Uncompahgre Medical Center (UMC) is celebrating news that the Norwood clinic has received a national distinction and its best rating yet. Each year, the administration at UMC sends the details of its metrics to the Heath Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), the national organization that oversees federally funded health care clinics. HRSA compares clinics from around the nation to see how they measure up.

UMC is in the “gold tier,” where 10 percent of clinics in the nation dwell. Sarah Franklin, spokesperson for the clinic, said the metrics are based on patient care, specifically the quality of care. She said HRSA looks at how well the staff at UMC are supporting patients and following up with them regarding chronic illness, preventing disease and more.

According to her, what that looks like in the clinic setting is education for patients, hosting support group meetings for those with diabetes, conducing healthy living classes and offering preventative screenings too.

Last year, UMC was given a silver tier distinction and was ranked in the top 20 percent of all federally funded health care clinics. Franklin said the clinic’s jump to gold means that the staff was able to improve on last year’s data.

As a result, HRSA awarded $76,000 to UMC two weeks ago. Those funds must be put back into quality improvement for patients. Franklin said the money can’t be spent on anything else. Last year, similar funds were used for staff trainings and education. Employees traveled for various educational opportunities related to patient care.

Franklin said she agrees that it takes the entire staff to make such an improvement and land the gold-tier award.

“From the CEO to every provider, staff member, in dental and the pharmacy, and the administration, and the front desk, it takes the team to make sure these things are happening,” she said. “We have definitely improved. It was the goal to go even further. We’re always looking to improve and help patients become healthier.”

She said even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, UMC is still offering ways for patients to receive support with chronic illness. Some of those are now virtual or include social distancing when patients come together. She said participation varies depending on what types of programming are offered, but that people always express interest and some always sign up.

Charles Porth, the new CEO who’s been leading the clinic since early August, said he’s pleased with the new HRSA rating.

“It’s an honor to be ranked in the top 10 percent nationally for the care we deliver,” he told The Norwood Post on Sunday. “I’m lucky to work with a team that’s dedicated to providing the best care and service possible to their patients and our community.”

Porth replaced former interim CEO Nichole Long, who left on Aug. 4 for a job in quality improvement for River Valley Family Health Center, which has offices in Montrose, Olathe and Delta.

Franklin said it was sad to see Long go after her years of service to UMC. Long continues to help Porth settle into his role.