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Vail Daily column: Medical center plan essential to our community

Community hospitals are likely to be relevant as long as health care stays local, and despite all the various changes in health care, I don’t expect that’s going to change anytime soon. In fact, the localness of community health providers seem more important than ever. We’re fortunate here to have Vail Valley Medical Center as our community hospital.

The board of governors at Vail Valley Partnership doesn’t often endorse or take positions on projects or issues within Eagle County; although we are certainly able to do so, and it’s quite common for chambers of commerce to regularly take positions and endorse (and campaign for) issues or even candidates.

We do (and will continue to) advocate for issues that face our community — examples include advocating for increased funding for the Colorado Tourism Office, working with the state insurance department to re-draw the boundaries for our mountain region to help lower our health care insurance costs, bringing more nonstop flights to the Eagle County Regional Airport and bringing together stakeholders (broadband access and health care are recent examples) to discuss issues that impact our business community. The Partnership is also a hub for our members to help make them aware of opportunities and provide access to information to help you run your businesses more efficiently and effectively.

Vail Valley Partnership will continue to advocate for the Vail Valley and Eagle County as a place to do business and as a place to visit, and our mission remains focused on ensuring our region is economically viable. On occasion, an issue faces our community and our board feels the need to endorse it directly.

The Vail Valley Medical Center, our nonprofit community hospital since 1965, is currently in the process of implementing a master plan for their Vail campus, and the board of governors at Vail Valley Partnership enthusiastically supports this effort.

We support the master plan for the following reasons:

• A state-of-the-art medical center is critical to the quality of life and medical needs of not only the town of Vail but the entire Vail Valley and Eagle County.

• By having an independent, nonprofit hospital like the Vail Valley Medical Center, funds don’t go to shareholders or a corporate office outside our region. Instead, Vail Valley Medical Center revenues must be reinvested in the community through better services, health care jobs, new physicians, state-of-the-art equipment, improved access, community outreach and charity care.

• The Eagle County Economic Development Plan has identified the health and wellness industry as one of the emerging and leading sectors on which the majority of the county’s economic development efforts should focus — and Vail Valley Medical Center (and its affiliates) is the foundation upon which to build this sector. The Vail Valley Medical Center is an aging facility with buildings nearing 45 years of age and with mechanical and electrical systems nearing the end of their useful life.

• The $100 million master plan proposed by the Vail Valley Medical Center to update the medical center will keep Vail and the Vail Valley a center of medical excellence, improve health care available to the community and provide a positive quality of life for residents, visitors and prospective residents of the valley.

• The Vail Valley Medical Center master plan will enhance the health care of the region by providing a new, state-of-the-art emergency department and trauma care, relocating the helipad so it has direct access to the hospital and eliminates the need for ambulance transfer that increases risk and time in treating critical care patients and newborns.

• The Vail Valley Medical Center master plan will physically improve the community by relocating the main entrance and visitor and outpatient traffic and parking to South Frontage Road, thereby removing 1,400 vehicle trips from West Meadow Drive every day and improving the pedestrian environment and quality of life for nearby residents and hospital visitors. Additionally, the new look will complement the architectural renaissance in Vail Village and Lionshead Village.

• The Vail Valley Medical Center’s planning process has been extremely thorough and thoughtful, spending the past two years working with leading experts in hospital design, consulting with heliport and aviation experts, meeting with town of Vail staff, hosting community presentations, sitting down with neighbors and incorporating feedback from physicians and staff.

• The construction of the Vail Valley Medical Center Master Plan will not increase the cost of health care services to patients.

Unique to our resort community, the Vail Valley Medical Center, along with orthopaedic partners at The Steadman Clinic, the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Howard Head Sports Medicine, have built a reputation that brings thousands of patients to Vail each year specifically for health care (known as destination medicine or medical tourism). These additional visitors, along with the medical staff that serve them, provide more than $30 million (including nearly 100,000 visitor nights) annually in direct economic impact to the town of Vail alone in hotel, restaurant and retail spending.

The Partnership board believes the master plan proposed by the Vail Valley Medical Center is vital to the long-term economic strength of the Vail Valley because of the significant health expenditures that are kept in the community, the 850-plus jobs that are created and the essential services provided to the community.

We encourage local residents and businesses to learn more about the Vail Valley Medical Center master facility plan at http://www.vvmc.com/build. Thank you to the town of Vail for their support for this important project to the future of not only the medical center facility, but to the entire Vail Valley.

We also recognize the impacts of the Affordable Care Act and the cost of health care on our community and encourage those interested in learning more — including strategies for success — to join us on Tuesday for a free luncheon and panel discussion with local health service providers. Space is limited, so please RSVP to Maren@visitvailvalley.com.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.


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