Mike McKibbin

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December 19, 2012
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50 years on: What a story it's been

When you think about it, probably one of the most asked questions we get every day has to do with health.

How are you? How you feeling?

It's even part of many wedding vows: in sickness and in health.

It's also helped coin a word that can easily start an argument: Obamacare.

But there may not be a more important part of every community than its health care system. And that system has a long and interesting story behind it in many communities, including Rifle.

As you can read in this Citizen Telegram, the Grand River Hospital District has produced a 50th anniversary DVD that tells the story of how Rifle's health care system, doctors and facilities came to be and changed over the last half century.

And what a story. Or stories, as the case may be.

From the start, it was an uphill battle. And it was one of peaks and valleys, mirroring the Rifle community over time. There were a couple of times when it looked like our hospital would shut its doors.

That's the inspiring part of the story. Local folks who served on the district's board of directors stood their ground and leaders in the community, including a banker who extended lines of credit to keep the hospital open, stepped up. Something you might have a hard time finding in these economic times.

Speaking of current times, did you know the hospital district was formed without a vote of the people? A tax collecting entity is among us, and we didn't get to vote on it.

Never happen in this day and age, but back in 1959, the state Legislature passed a law allowing such districts to form through local petition efforts, followed by an election.

As longtime hospital district attorney Tom Stuver explained in comments he made at the 2009 unveiling of the current hospital addition, "1,730 qualified electors from the communities of Silt, Divide Creek, Mamm Creek, Antlers, Silt Mesa, Cactus Valley, Rifle, Taughenbaugh Mesa, Battlement Mesa, Rulison, Grand Valley, Wallace Creek, Holmes Mesa, Anvil Points and Morrisania Mesa petitioned the district court of Garfield County to establish the Grand River Hospital District.

"At this time, Rifle had fewer than 2,000 citizens, neither Grand Valley (since renamed Parachute) nor Silt had a population exceeding 500, and the idea of Battlement Mesa planned unit development had not yet been conceived. Yet 1,730 out of 2,248 registered voters signed the petition for organization.

"With that number of signatories, the outcome of a court-supervised election was a forgone conclusion, and therefore the organizational election was dispensed with."

We've been among the beneficiaries of that judges' wisdom over the last 50 years. Health care is such a huge part of our lives, where would Rifle be without its own hospital? Certainly not the same city it is now. And think of all the people - our friends, relatives and neighbors - who work at Grand River: doctors, nurses, specialists, receptionists, housekeepers. I'm sure I'm forgetting many others.

They likely wouldn't be part our lives without the district and that hospital.

Our community has been blessed to have the caring, compassionate people at Grand River take care of us for 50 years. Here's to the next 50.

Happy anniversary, Grand River Hospital District.

Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.

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The Post Independent Updated Dec 19, 2012 05:44PM Published Dec 19, 2012 05:43PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.