Expanding hospital unwise | AspenTimes.com

Expanding hospital unwise

Dear Editor:

We have owned our home in Pitkin County for 28 years, the last six years of which we have been permanent residents – and are taxpayers in the Aspen Valley Hospital District. We are very concerned about the proposed Phases II and III expansion of Aspen Valley Hospital.

The current expansion plans were conceived prior to the recent economic downturn and prior to the passage of the recent Health Care Reform Act. The economic downturn has altered the demographics of our area and has greatly reduced the potential for revenue to pay for a hospital expansion project.

Additionally, the Health Care Reform Act is still in the transition phase, and may well evolve into some directives which would change the regional requirements for health care delivery facilities and therefore render the current AVH expansion plans irrelevant, possibly offering services for which government/insurance carriers would not reimburse payment.

Both of us have background/experience in the health care field. Prior to my retirement I practiced medicine in Michigan and in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Ariz. In Michigan I was director of emergency services for the state as well as for the University of Michigan Medical Center. I routinely evaluated medical centers in both Michigan and Arizona for Medicare.

My wife, Ann, received her master’s of public health in medical care organization at the University of Michigan, after which her first job in that capacity was in U.S. Regional Health Planning in the Phoenix office. As a consultant, she introduced the ACCESS program, Arizona’s version of Medicaid, to the Arizona Senate Health Committee.

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Our experience gives us concern that the AVH expansion might commit our taxpayers to build a costly “Field of Dreams” – with an agenda to compete with other facilities in the area that are better located to serve a broader cachement area of patients.

We believe that, in the current economic climate, on-site employee housing is less cost effective than taking advantage of other existing or approved affordable housing. We think that the Health Care Reform Act will include regional planning and have a direct impact upon the services which insurance will pay for – and at which facilities, in order to minimize duplication of services, a major contributor to the high cost of health care.

While it may be prudent to bring existing facilities up to state-of-the-art standards, at this time it seems unwise for AVH to proceed with anything beyond that. The public needs more time to be educated fully as to the extent and cost (and financing) of the Phase II AVH expansion proposal. Perhaps this could be part of a campaign involved in a referendum on the subject?

Sidney N. Smock, M.D.

Ann E. Smock, M.P.H.

Basalt