Aspen Valley Hospital unveils new wing

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Patients aren’t sharing rooms at Aspen Valley Hospital anymore.

A new wing, under construction since crews broke ground nearly two years ago, is open for business, though the nearly $78 million second phase of the hospital’s expansion is only partially complete.

Much is still to be done, but enough is finished to show things off and, more importantly, treat patients in the new addition. Artwork is still being hung on the walls and there’s unpacking yet to do, but those details will be taken care of by Saturday, Nov. 10 when the community is invited to come have a look at the building that’s been rising beneath a giant yellow crane swinging overhead.

The open house, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will start with a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by complimentary appetizers and tours of the new patient-care unit, roomy cafeteria, physical-therapy quarters and other facilities that have been moved into the two-story wing. The second phase also includes a parking garage, medical office space (so far, Aspen Orthopaedic Associates has moved in, leasing space at market rates) and 18 rental housing units for hospital workers. Foundation work is under way for the housing, to be located north of the hospital building. Modular structures will arrive in mid-November.

The new addition has fulfilled the promise of what were once an artist’s renderings, said John Sarpa, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, during a media tour Wednesday.

“It looks better than the pictures to me,” he said.

The second phase of the hospital’s four-phase expansion plan is the most expensive and extensive, as it includes the parking garage (parking is free) and the housing, plus all of the exterior site work and replacing internal components like the heating system for the entire complex, according to CEO Dave Ressler.

After two more phases, spanning another 31⁄2 years of construction, assuming it occurs sequentially, the hospital will occupy about 214,000 square feet – triple its former size, with space to meet contemporary standards. Private rather than shared patient rooms are just one of those needs, Ressler said.

The hospital will retain 25 patient beds, but no one will double up. There will be the ability to equip and utilize 11 more rooms as needs dictate.

With the second phase unfinished, though, the hospital will go into its second winter with a shortage of beds, requiring “bed management” to make things work in the interim, Ressler said. The second phase is expected to wrap up next summer.

Visitors and patients, however, will notice the changes that have taken place so far. For example, the intensive-care unit, though in a temporary location, boasts a family waiting area – something that did not exist previously. Those using treadmills and other machines in the spacious physical-therapy room can enjoy the views offered by a wall of windows. Even the cafeteria dining area is surrounded by windows.

The underground parking, already popular with employees, offers close-in spots for patients at every level, and Ressler expects the garage to grow even more popular once the weather turns nasty, though surface parking remains an option.

“As mundane as it sounds, it’s a big deal to us and to our patients,” he said.

For everything the hospital does, there will be more room. For some things, there already is, and it’s noticeable, according to Dr. Dennis Cirillo, a surgeon at the hospital.

“When I came here 20 years ago, they had no CT scans, no MRI scans, … all of these things have been squeezed into the hospital,” he said.

Often, it was space devoted to patients that suffered, according to Ressler.

The completed portion of Phase 2 also includes cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and oncology, among other services. When all of Phase 2 is done, there will be a new intensive-care unit and improvements to admissions, same-day surgery and cardiopulmonary diagnostics, among other things. The second half of Phase 2 involves expanding outward over a portion of the original building, adding a second story.

Many departments, both within the old building and in the newly constructed space, are in a state of flux. Things are moving into the new space to allow reconfiguration of the existing structure, and in some cases, they will move again before it’s done.

The hospital’s entire expansion, through Phase 4, has received conceptual approval from the city of Aspen. Final plans for Phases 3 and 4 began review by the city Planning and Zoning Commission this week.

Phase 2 is being funded through a voter-supported $50 million bond, plus cash reserves and philanthropic support.


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