Southwest Health System Expects To Sign County’s Exemption Request, CEO Says

Apr 30, 2020

In this week’s coronavirus update with Southwest Health System staff, KSJD speaks with Tony Sudduth, CEO of SHS, about the exemption request Montezuma County plans to submit to the state health department. 

The request, if approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, would exempt the county from some of the safer-at-home order’s restrictions. One part of the request, for example, would allow dining rooms at restaurants to operate at 40% capacity.

Note: Southwest Health System is an underwriter of KSJD.

The county commission, operating as the Board of Health, passed the plan unanimously Wednesday in a meeting with local health officials. But CDPHE also asks for local health departments and health care providers to sign on to county exemption requests.

The Montezuma County Public Health Department intends to sign the plan, according to the county’s public information officer. And Sudduth confirmed with KSJD Thursday that SHS will also support it, as long as the changes requested in the meeting make it into the revised final plan, which he expects to happen.

The CEO reinforced his belief that community leaders passing this plan, including the commissioners, the hospital, and the MCPHD, should support enforcing its health measures even if it goes against personal beliefs.

He was involved in an argument at Wednesday’s meeting with Commissioner Larry Don Suckla after the commissioner described wearing masks as “ridiculous.” In an interview with KSJD, Sudduth said he understands the frustrations some have toward masks and other precautions, like social distancing, but said he’ll continue to back it.

“It’s not comfortable, it’s not what we’re used to doing,” Sudduth said. “But if the result of that is we save lives, I think it’s worth it.”

Hear Sudduth’s full interview with KSJD below.