Vail Health CEO: Partnerships essential for future success
'State of the hospital' presentation stresses the need for independence
GYPSUM — Will Cook has spent less than a month on the job as CEO of Vail Health Hospital. But he’s starting to form some ideas of the facility’s role in the valley.
Cook spoke Thursday in Gypsum, his first round of hosting “state of the hospital meetings.” The first was held Wednesday at the Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail, and Cook filled the room.
The crowd was smaller in Gypsum, but Cook was able to keep the audience’s attention thanks to a combination of facts, figures and personal observations.
The most attention-grabbing personal story is about his youngest daughter’s birth, in June of 2018. Cook’s wife, Sara, started having contractions while the Cooks were on a visit to Vail. Those early contractions turned into a trip to Vail Health’s emergency department, followed by a quick trip to the obstetrics department. Daughter Sophia was born shortly after.
Cook said having a local hospital that’s a certified Level II nursery meant Sophia was born safely in a hospital, and not alongside Interstate 70 on the way to Denver.
Local resources save lives
Having resources available without having to travel outside the valley is a good thing, whether a patient is having a baby or a cardiac arrest.
To drive home the point, Cook told the story of a 50-year-old man from Maryland who suffered a cardiac arrest while skiing Vail’s Back Bowls. In a combination of professionalism and extreme good fortune, that man — who died in the Back Bowls but was revived — was quickly attended to by medical professionals who happened to be skiing in the area.
One of those professionals was Dr. Jerry Greenberg, one of the hospital’s two staff cardiologists.
Once the man had been brought down the mountain, Greenberg commandeered a town of Vail bus to get him to the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab.
A week later, the man flew home.
“Having access to this level of service, this close to home, can be the difference between life and death,” Cook said.
Cook went through the various services Vail Health provides, as well as the facts that the facility takes all kinds of insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. He also detailed the hospital’s partnerships with the Colorado Mountain Medical physician group, and its work with the Vail Valley Partnership on that group’s new One Valley Health Care project.
Those and other partnerships will be essential if locals hope to have anything like affordable prices and insurance coverage.
The biggest partnership
The biggest partnership Cook talked about is the one that needs to be built regarding mental health in the valley.
Noting that there are no licensed psychiatrists working in the valley, Cook said the entire community needs to be involved in addressing a growing problem.
Cook talked about the growing and related problems of increasing cases of drug and alcohol abuse, diagnoses of anxiety and depression and the growth of suicide among locals.
Whatever the causes, Cook said, “We’ve got to do something about it.”
Partners need to include local government, police and schools.
Individually, those partners can’t accomplish much. But, Cook said, Vail Health can be the “backbone” of a support network.
After Cook’s presentation, audience member Molly Bischoff said she was encouraged by what she’d heard.
Bischoff is the campus administrator at the Castle Peak senior care facility in Eagle.
Bischoff, the mother of three elementary school-aged children, said she was encouraged to hear Cook’s enthusiasm for helping all the valley’s residents.
“It was really cool to see (Cook) talk about how we all work together,” Bischoff said, adding she tries to support the health of both facility residents and employees.
And, she added, addressing mental health in all residents will help Castle Peak in the future.
“People who are depressed now will be depressed when they come to us,” she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2930.