Vail Health luncheon in Gypsum provides details about medical care, facility plans |

Vail Health luncheon in Gypsum provides details about medical care, facility plans

This artist's rendering of the completed Vail Health hospital shows the view looking north. The project — which will be done while all hospital facilities remain in operation — is expected to be complete in late 2020.
Special to the Daily |

By the numbers

965: People employed by Vail Health.

12: locations in Eagle and Summit counties.

425: Babies delivered at Vail Health hospital in 2017.

243 percent: Increase in Vail Health’s detox cases between 2014 and 2016.

Source: Vail Health

GYPSUM — Leonard Sinclair often gets his information about medical services in bits and pieces. But Sinclair and several other Gypsum residents on Wednesday, Jan. 31, got a bigger-picture look at Vail Health’s services and programs.

That big-picture look came from Vail Health CEO Doris Kirchner, who spoke at a luncheon meeting at Gypsum Town Hall. Kirchner for the past several years has given largely the same presentation in both Vail and Gypsum, since Vail Health has facilities spread over the length of the Eagle River Valley.

Kirchner touched on a number of subjects, including the fact that Vail Health accepts payment from Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare, an insurance program for veterans.

Medicare and Medicaid patients make up a growing portion of Vail Health patients, Kirchner said. Medicare patients — who are in their 60s and older — now account for 24 percent of the facility’s patients.

Medicaid, a state/federal program for lower-income patients, was expanded with the 2010 passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

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Kirchner said Medicaid patients now make up about 15 percent of Vail Health’s business.

Help for the uninsured

Kirchner also touted other ways Vail Health helps lower-income patients or those who don’t have insurance.

Uninsured patients at Vail Health’s urgent care centers in Avon and Gypsum receive 75 percent off services at those clinics. Financial assistance is available to families earning up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level. A family of four can earn as much as $100,000 per year and qualify, Kirchner said.

As she has in the past, Kirchner also stressed Vail Health’s independence. Revenues from the hospital and clinics go back into local communities, she said. Perhaps more important, she added, is that decisions on services and facilities are determined by Vail Health’s board of directors and executive team.

That independence is why Vail Health has a heart catheterization lab, Kirchner said. That lab, which can quickly find cardiac blockages and other problems, means patients can be diagnosed and treated quickly. And, when it comes to cardiac problems, time is often essential.

That independence has also allowed Vail Health to expand its cancer treatment facilities and work with two orthopedic clinics on both treatment and research.

The results are impressive for what is, at its core, a relatively small, rural hospital.

Kirchner told the group that many of Vail Health’s outcomes and patient satisfaction scores exceed national averages.

Breast cancer patients at the Shaw Cancer Center have a 97 percent survival rate, 5 percent better than the national average. Prostate cancer patients have a 96 percent survival rate, 8 percent better than the national average.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently gave Vail Health a four-star rating for its services.

Improving the hospital

That independence is also behind Vail Health’s multiyear facility renovation program.

The Vail hospital’s center and west wings were finished in 2017, and work has begun on rebuilding the east wing.

Kirchner said the biggest impact on patients will be parking, since the current parking structure is being demolished this year. Parking will once again be available at the entrance off West Meadow Drive. There will also be valet parking available for patients.

After Kirchner’s presentation, Sinclair said he was happy to get a lot of information in one session.

“You can’t keep up,” Sinclair said. “This gives you pieces you don’t run into” in day-to-day life.

Sinclair said he’d like to see Kirchner give that presentation to one of the weekly senior lunches at Eagle’s Golden Eagle Senior Center.

Carl Walker, a member of Mind Springs Health, said he was glad to hear about Vail Health’s work with the area’s mental health provider.

“It’s an issue that needs more attention,” Walker said.

Also at the lunch session was 91-year-old Anna Policastri, who said she was interested in learning about Vail Health’s services.

Acknowledging that local podiatrist Dr. Brian Maurer provides services at the local senior center, Policastri said Vail Health needs a foot doctor “to relieve the agony of de-feet.”

It was the laugh line of the day.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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