Alliance for AVH still alive

Eben Harrell

Negotiations between Aspen Valley Hospital and a major New York orthopedic center are progressing despite recent revelations about the depth of AVH’s financial crisis, officials from both hospitals confirmed yesterday.

After a sizable cut in hospital expenditures Wednesday – the firing of 34 employees – AVH officials say they are also determined to focus on bolstering the hospital’s revenue.

The hospital is struggling with a deficit that swelled to $5.3 million last year.

Interim CEO Bob Karp said the linchpin of the effort to bring money to the hospital is an affiliation with the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), a world-renowned orthopedic clinic in New York. Karp hopes bringing the HSS brand to Aspen will draw patients from around the world and turn AVH into a revenue-rich “destination hospital.”

The agreement, if it goes through, would mark a three-way partnership between AVH, the Orthopaedic Associates of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, and HSS, whereby HSS would allow its name recognition to be used to attract patients to Aspen.

Karp said that even through the last weeks, talks between the three organizations have continued unhindered.

“Two of the three parties are on the phone at least once a week,” Karp confirmed.

John Reynolds, the CEO of HSS, said he remains “optimistic” about a potential partnership with AVH despite the hospital’s shaky finances. Reynolds also said the HSS name could greatly help Aspen officials balance their books.

One of the problems facing Aspen’s hospital is the lack of revenue during Aspen’s offseasons. By providing an attractive option for elective joint surgeries such as knee and hip replacements, Reynolds claims Aspen will be able to keep a steady base of revenue year-round, even when the slopes and trails are empty.

“The people in Aspen, particularly [board member] John Jellinek, are smart people doing what they need to do, which is steer a steady course to resolution of this crisis. This partnership can help them bolster their revenue by bringing in a steady stream year-round,” Reynolds said.

“The crisis absolutely does not affect our talks.”

Acquiring the HSS name would likely cost AVH hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Board member John Jellinek said in an interview last month that the cost would represent pennies compared to what the HSS name could bring in.

He estimates it could total $10 million per year, although officials say this is a very rough estimate.

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