Centura Health, Kaiser announce plans for facilities in valley as VVMC builds new wing
EAGLE COUNTY — By the middle of next summer, Eagle County’s medical services will have expanded significantly, with new facilities from Colorado-based Centura Health and managed care giant Kaiser Permanente. Vail Valley Medical Center is also in the midst of a major expansion that is slated to be finished in 2019.
Influx of care
Centura Health has already broken ground on an emergency care facility on Buck Creek Road in Avon. The medical offices and urgent care facility will open in July 2016, offering 24/7 emergency services and multi-specialty clinics, physical therapy, dental and orthopedic practices within the building. (Although not all these clinics are finalized, the developer said.)
Jeff Brickman, Centura Health’s president of the mountain and north Denver operating group, said that the new facilities will fill a gap in emergency services. What other medical services provided there will be determined later, he said.
“One of the immediate gaps identified was the community’s need for 24/7 access to urgent and emergency services,” he said. “This will be provided at the new Avon facility, and we are still evaluating trauma level, but likely it will be a Level IV. We will continue to evaluate the needs of the community to determine the most effective services for the population.”
Centura operates in Colorado and western Kansas, and locally, they have operated St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Summit County, which is one of 15 hospitals and 11 affiliate hospitals in its network.
Kaiser Permanente has also announced plans for new medical offices in Eagle County. No location has been identified, but the health care group says it plans to open the facilities sometime next year. The Eagle County facilities will be similar to those currently being built in Frisco, which will include primary care services and laboratory and routine medical imaging.
“Our mountain expansion will allow us to offer many options for providing care to our members. We will offer brick and mortar medical offices where patients can be seen in person by a Kaiser Permanente provider,” said Brent Bowman, the company’s executive director of Mountain Colorado Service Area & Regional Strategy. “We will also work with a network of affiliated providers. Additional options will include telephone visits and video visits where a patient can meet with a provider from home through a secure Internet connection.”
More providers, lower costs?
Both Centura Health and VVMC have said they’re committed to keeping costs low for the community, but how the influx of services will actually affect prices is undetermined.
Centura said it has been working with local employers in Eagle and Summit counties to improve value of care, including creating direct contracts to help manage costs for employers and employees.
“We want to provide health solutions that deliver highly reliable and effective health results for consumers at reasonable prices, through a seamless experience and in settings that are available and accessible to all,” Brickman said.
VVMC officials said they’ve been working with insurance providers to create more affordable options, but that they don’t know how their costs will compare to the other providers moving into the valley.
“What might surprise people is that Vail Valley Medical Center has rated very comparably or less expensive than our neighboring hospitals in other mountain communities over the past few years. There’s a perception that VVMC is very expensive, but that’s misleading,” said VVMC president and CEO Doris Kirchner. “While hospitals across the country have increased costs at around 4-5 percent annually, VVMC has worked hard to keep cost increases at around 2 percent annually for the past four years. That’s unheard of in healthcare.”
VVMC continues expansion
Meanwhile, VVMC is in the first phase of construction on the west wing. Improvements from the renovated hospital will include a bigger and better 24/7 emergency department, a new helipad and upgraded patient care and intensive care units. VVMC will continue to be dedicated to being a community hospital, Kirchner said.
“It’s important for people to understand that we don’t send revenue to a corporate office in another city or state and we don’t generate dollars for shareholders,” she said. “Our priority for 50 years has been serving Eagle County and it remains our top priority today. All dollars stay local and are reinvested in the community through services like Shaw Regional Cancer Center and urgent care facilities in Avon and Gypsum.”
She added that VVMC accepts Medicare and Medicaid for every line of its service and that they’ll remain one of the major employers in the valley.
“No healthcare provider is going to come into Eagle County and offer a fraction of the depth, experience and quality that VVMC offers, and that’s something our community should be proud of. Nobody will be turned away at our facilities because VVMC is here to serve every segment of our population. VVMC is a cornerstone in this community,” Kirchner said.
Assistant Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.
Up until now, the county has been a referral agency relegated to commenting on the plan but that could change if developers plan water service extension to the site