Vail Daily column: Healthcare landscape changing
Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from the Vail Homeowners Association Newsletter. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
The approval process is reaching the final stage for the Vail Valley Medical Center West Wing expansion. In general, the master plan, now approved, includes an enlargement of the West Wing to provide for the expansion of specialized clinic functions. The future East Wing is to provide for the community’s emergency care and supporting operational facilities, such as parking, deliveries, administration and patient/visitor reception. While the master planning concept has received approval, the details guaranteeing that it will be put into effect are being worked out through the town’s approval process for the expansion of the West Wing.
The guarantees will be included in a developer improvement agreement which is currently under negotiation. The sequencing of the master plan components leaves to outlying years most of the costly items required by the town such as structured parking, public safety vehicular/pedestrian traffic improvements and affordable housing. Still to be determined is the degree to which the town will be able to compel performance of agreed upon developer improvements.
The dynamic of health care is changing in Eagle County. The Vail Valley Medical Center has enjoyed a singular position in providing health care in Eagle County since its inception in the 1960s. Eagle and other Colorado mountain resort counties were ranked in a 2014 survey as having the highest health care insurance costs in the United States. In reaction to the survey Kaiser Permanente, Colorado’s largest nonprofit health plan, announced that it plans to expand coverage to mountain communities along the Interstate 70 corridor, an area where health care premiums are high. In recent months, public officials announced plans for a 49,000-square-foot medical center in the nearby town of Avon to be built by a company specializing in the development of medical office buildings. The tenants for the center are yet to be identified.
The town of Vail has been working for the better part of a decade to ensure that the Vail Valley Medical Center retains its central focus in Vail, due in large part to the significant contribution to the local tourism economy of its specialized orthopedic and sport medicine clinics. Meanwhile, a growing segment of Eagle County residents has argued that medical facilities serving the broader requirements of locals should be located further west, closer to local population centers that have grown to maturity in recent decades. The town of Vail’s goal of maintaining predominance over health care in Eagle County may be eclipsed by factors well beyond either the town or the Vail Valley Medical Center’s ability to control.
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Vail Valley Medical Center has steadfastly maintained its independence from being absorbed into a larger health care system. There are those who worry, what will become of the town’s mandated development requirements should Vail Valley Medical Center eventually be absorbed? The quandary for the town of Vail is whether to give the Vail Valley Medical Center relief from costly development requirements that it has enforced on all other major developments, and if it does, should the taxpayers absorb the costs by taking on the responsibility to make these improvements.