Vail Valley Medical Center expansion continues | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Medical Center expansion continues

Chris Knight, Vail Valley Medical Center's master facility plan project manager, talks to a guest at Tuesday's "state of the medical center" presentation at the Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail.

This story has been corrected to reflect new rooms at the hospital, the location of the Steadman Clinic and the medical center's contribution to staffing the on-site detox center.

VAIL — Even as construction continues on Vail Valley Medical Center's west wing, new facilities are already opening.

At a Tuesday state of the medical center session at the Sonnenalp Hotel, facility CEO Doris Kirchner told a full room that the Steadman Clinic has recently moved into its new offices on the fourth floor. Five of the planned 24 private patient rooms also opened recently.

Kirchner told the filled banquet room about progress on the medical center's expansion project. The entire project is expected to cost a bit more than $200 million, paid for via a combination of savings, a capital campaign and by issuing $100 million in revenue bonds.

The first phase, which adds an extension to the west from the old building, also adds a fourth floor. Work on that phase of the project will be finished this year.

As that work finishes up, the medical center will this fall start work on the east wing of the facility. That work, expected to be complete in 2020, will add a new entrance to the hospital, along with a new emergency department and new patient entrance.

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The new patient entrance should get most hospital traffic off of West Meadow Drive. The exception is delivery trucks, which will be able to turn around inside the new loading and delivery facility.

The second phase of the expansion will also add a new helipad to the northwest corner of the medical center's campus. That helipad has been controversial, especially with neighbors, who worry about safety and noise.

Neighbor Richard Scalpello said he's still "not excited" about the helipad. "But I do understand it," he added.

Scalpello, a longtime Vail resident, said Tuesday's luncheon had new information for him, particularly about the breadth of community services the medical center provides.

While talking about the value of having a "truly independent" medical center in the valley, Kirchner detailed a number of community initiatives.

Those initiatives add up to roughly $55 million in giving over the past five years, Kirchner said.

That giving includes relatively small items including giving bicycle helmets to local kids and providing free physicals to local high school athletes. But, Kirchner said, the giving extends beyond the medical center's walls. That giving includes donations to the Castle Peak senior care facility in Eagle and a capital campaign for Mind Springs Health, the region's mental health facility. Kirchner said the medical center is also currently contributing $90,000 to help Mind Springs fund a newly-required second professional at its detox facility.

Assisting those in Need

Kirchner also talked about the ways the medical center helps lower-income residents. Uninsured patients at the center's urgent care facilities receive a 75 percent discount on the list price of their treatment there, she said. Patients treated at urgent care facilities are less likely to end up in the hospital, where treatment is more involved, and more expensive, Kirchner said.

The medical center also provides financial assistance to individuals and families earning up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level.

Kirchner said much of the money that provides those services comes from orthopedic patients. Other operations, including the cardiac catheterization lab and the hospital's nursery, often operate at an annual loss, she said.

Kirchner added that maintaining electronic medical records is one of the biggest items on the medical center's spending list. That costs between $3 million and $7 million per year, she said.

A number of rural medical facilities are closing due to the required cost of maintaining those records, Kirchner said.

After Kirchner's presentation, audience member Barbara Keller said she liked what she heard.

"It's good to know the strategy behind the re-design," Keller said, adding that she was also interested to hear more specifics about the planned new locations of many medical center services.

Keller said she was also interested to hear Kirchner's presentation on costs and services.

Longtime local attorney Jim Wear works with the medical center. Wear said he thought learning about the expansion plan and where the medical center's money goes "is great for the community to hear."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

Giving back

Among other initiatives, here’s what Vail Valley Medical Center gives back to the community.

• Giving local children more than 1,100 bike helmets every year.

• Low-cost health screenings for residents.

• List-price discounts of 75 percent for uninsured patients at the medical center’s urgent care clinics.

• Extending financial assistance to individuals and families earning up to 350 percent of federal poverty levels.