CASPER, Wyo. — The decadelong relationship between the Community Health Center of Central Wyoming and the University of Wyoming Family Medicine Residency Program could be coming to an end.
The two entities, which partner to provide affordable primary care in Casper, are exploring options to become independent, both sides confirmed Friday. For now, doctors from the program continue to treat patients at the center.
Under the existing partnership, the UW program provides residents and faculty to work at the center’s East A Street clinic. The health center offers an educational environment where they can practice.
No transition plan has been adopted and the two parties can’t predict the specifics of any future relationship, UW College of Health and Sciences Dean Joseph Steiner said in a statement.
“In the past several months, we have had a series of discussions with the community health center with respect to the structure of the relationship going forward, the possibility of becoming an educational health center, and the priorities of each entity,” he said. “While becoming two independent entities is a very real possibility, discussions will continue regarding how best to proceed through any transition.”
If a split does happen, it’s likely more than a year off. The two parties will probably separate when the health center moves into a new east Casper building in the fall of 2012, said Dan Reiner, the center’s chief executive office.
The organizations have created a panel to determine the best way to coordinate the separation without affecting patients.
“We want this transition into two separate organizations to be very seamless,” he said. “We have no desire to disrupt patient care or the educational experience.”
Economic pressures are pushing the organizations in different directions, Reiner said.
The health center is trying to address rising demand for discounted medical services. The residency program, meanwhile, has its own funding needs.
“We’ve explored a lot of discussions over the past four or five months,” he said. “We never could find the common thread.”
Twenty-four residents participate in the family medicine program each year. They care for patients at the center and perform rotations at the Wyoming Medical Center and sites outside Casper.
A split could actually increase health care options in Casper, said Dr. David Driggers, the university’s director of medical education and public health.
“You’ll have two entities in Casper providing primary care and also being committed to being safety net providers,” he said.
Reiner agreed. Both organizations can help to meet rising demand for affordable primary care, he said.
If the two organizations do complete their split, the health center would need to add staff members. The clinic recently lost two providers and three have submitted resignations, Reiner said. The center is replacing them and could hire additional physicians over the next six months.
“There are some providers who are wishing to pursue other opportunities because of the residency relationship and we are working through that right now,” he said.