Dr. Ron Kirk to join UNHS Family

The growth and expansion of Utah Navajo Health System has included the acquisition of several private medical and dental practices, but now UNHS is about to acquire the eye care practice of Dr. Ronald D. Kirk O. D.

Dr. Kirk has been Blanding’s only Optometrist for thirty years, as owner of the San Juan Vision Clinic at 46 North Main Street. He has also been an icon of the community, active in many different areas, such as a coach, President of the Chamber of Commerce, a Bishop and many other areas. He and his wife, Katy, have raised seven children, who were all active in sports, drama, music and other activities at San Juan High School.

According to Dr. Kirk, UNHS began talking with him a couple of months ago about buying his practice and including him in the staff of providers in their organization.

“When they started I had a feeling this might be what they were talking about, so Katy and I talked about it. The thing is we just need to be involved in the eye care coverage and make it complete,” he explained. “With the University of Utah and other entities doing eye surgeries and other procedures in our local system, triage and follow up care is required.”

Kirk noted that when the U of U’s Moran Eye Center comes to the UNHS Community Health Centers to do free eye screenings, that’s a good thing. He said the Moran Eye Center’s services serve a good purpose but logistics make it difficult to provide consistent care and follow up. Having eye care within the UNHS system only makes sense and fulfills a big need.

He hopes there won’t be a negative reaction from some patients to his joining UNHS because there are many advantages to joining UNHS. He will stay in the same location and see all patients, while ensuring that everybody is able to stay with the health system of their choice. Referrals from all clinics are routinely sent his way and he was assured that they will all be seen and sent right back to the original source. UNHS is agreeing to lease his building until its new clinic facility near Blue Mountain Hospital is complete. The new facility is a two level, $8 million, 25,000 square-foot clinic that will be built on the south side of BMH. UNHS officials say a tentative completion date for the new clinic is 2019.

“We’ve talked to Mike (UNHS CEO Michael Jensen) about including a big eye clinic with three lanes in it. We’re cramped for space here and we’re busy as we can be. If we have three lanes we can get the staff to help with all the pre-exam stuff and I can go from place to place and talk to patients and work with them, and I won’t have to do too much with the other part,” Dr. Kirk explained. “The other thing that’s appealing is, you get tired of billing all the time. If I can just have someone else be involved in the billing then I can just play doctor for a while.

“The UNHS billing department will learn something with this because eye care is unique to the healthcare profession. How many healthcare professions have a retail side to them? Eye Care. Dentistry possibly, Chiropractor probably a little bit, but nothing like eye care traditionally,” he continued. “We need to have some glasses there for patients to look at so they can come in.”

Another advantage to joining UNHS, besides keeping his same staff and everything the same, is an update to some of his equipment.

“My equipment has been around a long time and works great but with new technology, Mike said, ‘you tell us what we need to do.’ They just want to keep it updated. The basic stuff will be the same,” Kirk added.

Dr. Kirk also talked about the situation with organizations like The Hope Alliance, that work with the Moran Eye Center, providing free glasses to patients when they visit the various UNHS community health centers. They have great intentions and try to help those on the Reservation but it can make a difference with the private businesses.

“That’s another reason I thought, you know if I go into this, it will take away any worries I have about that. We’ll just solve patients’ needs and be good,” he said.

Another main concern is Dr. Kirk’s relationship with other Doctors in San Juan County, including Doctors from San Juan Health Services, because they send their patients to him.

“They send their patients here. They do the diabetics here. The Nursing Home brings patients down here and I want to let them know that I told Mike there’s no way I’m going to do this if we can’t keep their patients that way. They need to keep those patients. We do their stuff, we check their diabetes and they go right back there. We’re not trying to include them into a new system or anything,” Dr. Kirk stressed. “Mike told me that’s not their purpose. I’m sure if somebody wanted to that’s fine, which will be another good thing.

“I’ll talk to the other doctors and tell them, if you need anything I’m here. If you need something late at night I’m here. We’ll have to figure out how to deal with that too because occasionally, I’ll get a call at midnight and one of the doctors will say, ‘hey, I’ve got a problem,’ and I say send ‘em over and we’ll take a look at it,” he added.

Jensen and UNHS Chief Operating Officer Byron Clarke both said the addition of Dr. Kirk is a very good thing for UNHS and they are excited to have him join the organization. From a service and financial standpoint it will be better for UNHS and

UNHS patients to have Dr. Kirk onboard, they said.

“I think it will be a good thing. We’re talking four or five years, possibly starting July 5,” Kirk added. “I’m probably five years from calling it quits. We’ve been here so long and we’ve done just about everybody. We’ve been busy all the time. There’s a lot of things changing in the world, healthcare-wise and everything else. We probably need to roll with the punches a little bit. It’s nice to be on your own but its also nice to have this support. UNHS has been doing really well. I want the health care to be full and help out where I can and make a difference with other people.”

Leave a Reply