To better make use of its staff and resources during the COVID-19 outbreak, Aspen Valley Hospital is closing its Snowmass Clinic on Saturday and moving its village staff into support roles at its other facilities.
The Snowmass Clinic is a year-round outpatient branch of AVH that offers physical therapy and acute illness and injury care with help from about 20 staff members, including four clinicians trained in emergency medicine.
The clinic was set to move from the Village Mall to its new, state-of-art space in Base Village in April after over 12 years operating out of a former kids activity center beneath the Venga Venga restaurant.
As of Wednesday, all of that has been pushed back to an unknown date as AVH works to prepare as best it can should it experience an influx of critically ill patients in the coming weeks due to COVID-19 — bringing on much of its Snowmass staff to help.
“We were sort of expecting it because everything is so rapidly changing so it wasn’t that much of a surprise,” said Kelly Hansen, Snowmass Clinic manager, of the decision to close the village outpatient facility.
Hansen and Dr. Jon Gibans, medical director of the Snowmass Clinic, said their daily patient numbers dramatically decreased once Gov. Jared Polis ordered all of the state’s ski areas to close March 15 due to the novel coronavirus spread in Colorado’s mountain communities.
In the first several days after the ski area closure, Hansen and Gibans said the clinic fielded a lot of COVID-19 related calls. But as most visitors have left and locals become better informed on how to seek COVID-19 information and care, the Snowmass Clinic has mainly focused on injury treatment and telemedicine services to maintain the integrity and safety of its medical facility.
“As COVID-19 amped up in our community, we changed the way we did things to better protect our staff, clinic and patients,” Hansen said.
At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the Snowmass Clinic will close for an undetermined amount of time, reopening only “when it’s safe to do so and the hospital resources are reallocated.” When the clinic does reopen, Hansen and Gibans said they hope it will be in the new Base Village space.
Until then, clinic staff understand the importance of helping AVH respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Monday morning, Hansen will go work with hospital oncology clinicians, and Gibans will help out in the Alternative Respiratory Evaluation tent outside of the AVH emergency room and at the Basalt After-Hours Medical Care clinic.
Other year-round and seasonal staff will fill in holes at the hospital as needed and the clinic’s nurse supervisor also will work in the respiratory tent, Hansen and Gibans said. AVH officials anticipate extending the tent hours and needing the extra personnel to do so.
Jennifer Slaughter, chief marketing officer for AVH, said no Snowmass Clinic staff members will be laid off, but the hospital is working with each individually to redeploy them.
“We’re just doing what’s best for the patients and the community during this crisis,” Slaughter said. “This was not a financial decision, it was a decision about resources and how we can best utilize them in the situation we’re in.”
While the Hansen and Gibans said they hoped the Snowmass Clinic would be able to remain open, they know village locals will have access to urgent care and emergency services through other valley medical facilities and feel it’s important to come together as a community to both be ready for and decrease the potential of a surge of serious COVID-19 illnesses.
“I think everyone is a little scared right now,” Gibans said. “Hopefully we can avoid what’s happened in other communities but all work together to best prepare ourselves as a community and a hospital.”
Added Hansen: “We plan to approach this like how we run the clinic, with a teamwork mentality so we can get through this quickly.”