By Eric Dahlberg, MCIN Staff

When the Nye Regional Medical Center in Tonopah filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the end of 2013, it left residents of the small mining town of around 2,500 concerned about how they would receive critical care if the only hospital in town were to close its doors.

Critically ill or injured patients would have two options – Mount Grant General Hospital in Hawthorne or Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop Calif. Both hospitals are about the same distance from Tonopah, with Hawthorne being slightly closer.

The concern of the Tonopah locals is the amount of time it would take to get quality care, at a point where time is critical. One resident told the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently that lives could be lost in the over hour and a half journey to either town if their medical center is shuttered.

“If that hospital (Nye) were not here, she would not be here,” Duane Downing said of his wife Margie, who suffered a ruptured aneurysm in 2006 and was treated there. “I have seen that hospital save lives time and time again.”

The Review-Journal reported that two recent events were huge factors in the hospital, which operates under the nonprofit corporation Primecare Nevada Inc., filing for Chapter 11.

The mandatory reprogramming of their payment system in early 2012 to meet Medicare and Medicade requirements and the launch of a new computer system to meet federal requirements for electronic health records in the middle of that same year.

When the payment programs were to be switched over, the state and federal governments delayed it three months, causing them to lose out on Medicare and Medicaid payments. Nye Hospital Administrator Vincent Scoccia also told the Review-Journal that the government had approved a $3.2 million grant for their new computer system, but only came through with around $600,000.

The challenges that the Tonopah hospital face are similar to just about any rural hospital, including Mount Grant in Hawthorne. Administrator Richard Munger said it would be devastating to see the Nye Regional Medical Center close, but if that happened they would be equipped to handle the possible influx of patients from that area.

“We do get some patients from there now, and would probably get a few more if that were to happen,” said Munger, whose hospital has 11 licensed acute beds and 24 long term beds. “Let’s just hope that they can get that situation figured out.”

The problems that are plaguing Nye, aren’t affecting Mount Grant. Munger went on to say that every hospital is different and their payment system is different than Tonopah’s.

He also said the new computer systems don’t have to be in place until 2016, and they are in the process of evaluating two companies at the moment.

“One of the reasons that we’ve waited is so we don’t have these glitches,” he said. “We’re waiting to see what everyone else is doing and taking our time to evaluate the systems and the cost.”

“Some people have rushed into it, and we don’t want to throw money away.”

Munger said Hawthorne’s hospital had a good year last year and is doing well financially.