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Aspen Valley Hospital plans face-lift

John Colson

Plans to remodel and expand Aspen Valley Hospital are scheduled for unveiling at a hospital board meeting Feb. 13, hospital CEO David Ressler said Tuesday.

AVH, currently 72,000 square feet, could soon have at least a partial second floor, expanded basement, larger quarters for its departments and updated equipment for treatment programs, Ressler said.

Since September, Ressler, AVH engineer John Schied and architect Russ Sedmak of HLM Design in Denver have been assessing what the facility needs.

The assessment involved what Ressler called a bottom-up survey of the number of patients and the level of work in the various departments. The assessment also included talks with workers to determine what they believe is necessary to improve the level of care at the facility.

Ressler said the hospital’s administrative staff recently completed more than nine hours of meetings over the course of two days in an effort to map out how the departments could fit together for the best “flow” of people and materials. The architect, he said, is now working on a floor plan to bring to the board next month.

The assessment, Ressler has said, was based partly on an earlier effort to develop as much as $40 million in improvements at the hospital. Those plans went on hold when the hospital ran into financial trouble a couple of years ago under an earlier administration.

The hospital since has all but erased the red ink from its annual budget and is building up its cash reserves – signs of growing financial health, according to reports by Chief Financial Officer Terry Collins.

Ressler said this week that some aspects of that earlier effort have been incorporated into the current assessment, but, “We ended up basically starting over.”

The current planning, he said, is to map out changes for about the next five years, as well as longer-range plans for the next two decades. Some long-range ideas, he said, might include a physicians’ office building next to the hospital and a parking structure with hospital facilities on top.

Among the changes that can be expected, he said, will be enlarging some departments.

“The initial space-planning suggests that some departments need to double in size,” he noted, adding that the hospital of the future “won’t be the same footprint as it is today.”

Ressler said the hospital’s focus has shifted from being primarily an inpatient facility to focusing primarily on outpatient care.

Although the plan is to grow upward in some areas, Ressler said, the administration and the board also want to display “sensitivity” to neighborhood concerns about the height and mass of the remodeled facility.

“We also can go down,” he said.

The hospital’s current 25-bed size is the maximum it can have and still be eligible for the somewhat higher level of Medicare reimbursements granted to rural hospitals, Ressler said.

But, Ressler said, the plans contain provisions for “an increase in the capacity for more beds” if that is necessary and possible.

“It’s driven by what our community needs, not the extra reimbursement,” he said.

Because the plans are still being formulated, Ressler declined to say what the size of the hospital ultimately could be or how much it could cost to build. He has said in the past that the improvements will be phased in over time, perhaps as long as 10 years.

But once the plans are in place, he said, work on some improvements could begin relatively quickly, using more than $6 million in revenues left over from a previous issuance of bonds. Ressler has said the hospital cannot go to the voters for authority to borrow more money because the hospital district is carrying some $27 million in debt from earlier bonds.

“We are obviously going to be looking at the philanthropic community,” primarily through the fundraising work of the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, which he said is “critical to our success.”

John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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