pam mcmanusPeak Vista Community Health Centers, already a major presence in El Paso and Teller counties serving about 66,000 patients, is broadening its reach.

Peak Vista announced Thursday it has started a process to merge, beginning in early 2014, with Plains Medical Center, which has four locations northeast of Colorado Springs serving the rural communities of Limon, Kiowa, Strasburg and Flagler as well as their surrounding areas.

“They have an incredible operation, and one of the exciting things they bring is a rural perspective,” said Pam McManus, president and CEO of Peak Vista. She will continue to have the same title over the merged operations, with Plains Medical Center serving nearly 10,000 patients over an area of 5,000 square miles (including six counties: Lincoln, Washington, Kit Carson, Elbert, Arapahoe and Adams) with a staff of 66 and 16 providers.

Peak Vista has a staff in the El Paso-Teller area of 591 people with 96 providers, and the organization operates 16 locations.

The merged entity will take on the name of Peak Vista Community Health Centers, McManus said. But the four Plains sites now will follow the lead of Peak Vista here and assume titles such as Health Center at Limon, Health Center at Kiowa, etc., under the Peak Vista umbrella.

“We want to emphasize that both of these organizations are forward-thinking, strong and stable, financially and operationally,” McManus said. She added that officials from Plains Medical Center, based in Kiowa, initiated the merger conversation “late this summer.”

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McManus said the benefits would include consolidating all of the health records into one advanced system and combining administrative functions.

Additionally, she said the merger idea was motivated by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, “because we’ve been duplicating compliance requirements that now we’ll be able to combine.”

Other anticipated improvements, enhanced by the upcoming merger, would include tele-medicine and residency programs.

Asked what this would mean for Peak Vista and its supporters locally, McManus said, “Anyone who supports Peak Vista and designates their support, it will go to Colorado Springs.”

She added that “Peak Vista has become known for being innovative, and we’re often asked to speak at national events about what we’re doing.”
McManus said Peak Vista is leading a growing national trend toward more such collaborations, “recognizing that we’re all in this together.”

The merger was approved by the Plains Medical Center board on Nov. 19 and then by Peak Vista’s board on Tuesday. A news release said the merger should be made totally official by April 30, but will take up to 18 months for full implementation.

“This endeavor will make a significant impact on improving efficiency and delivery of care in our service area,” Morgan Honea, president and CEO of Plains Medical Center, said in the release. “Peak Vista provides administrative resources that directly tie to our ability to ensure continued medical, dental and behavioral healthcare for our patients.”

Both are recognized as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), which offer affordable services across the country to people “facing access barriers,” the release said.

“To ensure our focus remains on patient experience and the delivery of quality care, we are committed to systematically rolling out the administrative and clinical services adjustments in a concise, clear manner so as to not interrupt service or employee engagement,” McManus said.