Casper's Community Health Center and the University of Wyoming Family Medicine Residency Program took another step toward separating Monday when the school's trustees gave approval to hire staff for a new university clinic.
The clinic would operate independently from the Community Health Center, giving Casper a second provider focused on affordable primary care.
For a decade, the university's residency program provided doctors for the Community Health Center. But the two entities are moving in different directions and have decided to explore ending their partnership.
In a special meeting, UW's Board of Trustees unanimously approved a budget request that will allow the university to hire 32 health care providers and clerical staff for a new, independently operated clinic.
The board's action will also allow the school to spend the estimated $2 million in revenues the clinic is conservatively expected to generate in its first year. That sum won't cover all of the costs for the new clinic, and the university plans to use existing resources to fund the difference.
The affiliation agreement between the health center and the university runs through June 30. Under the most likely scenario, the organizations will begin operating independently, in separate facilities, in the next two to three months, UW Provost Myron Allen told the board.
"There are some issues we need to manage if that scenario comes to pass," he said.
Chief among them is hiring more staff. While the university provides doctors, the health center offers the support staff for the existing Casper clinic.
The East A Street clinic is owned by the university.
The two entities must still work out how they will explain the situation to existing patients, Allen said. University officials plan to work on the transition plan when they meet with the health center's executive committee next week.
If the two organizations do follow through with the split, they will compete for patients, David Driggers, director of medical education in the College of Health sciences, told the board. The university plans to advertise its clinic and let patients know they have a choice, he said.
Trustee and doctor Howard Wilson said a number of employees at the Community Health Center have resigned recently and are seeking new jobs. He recommended following through with the separation as quickly as possible.
Wilson said he believed the center was in disarray and the remaining time together will not be beneficial to the university.
Community Health Center Chief Executive Officer Dan Reiner did not respond to a message left Monday at his office.