Griffiths: Our record an outstanding one
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Tom Griffiths admits that he is a bit surprised by the crowded race for three seats on the Aspen Valley Hospital board of directors.
The two-term incumbent believes he and his colleagues have done a good job guiding the hospital out of the financial straits of the early and mid-1990s, and that they all deserve the chance to finish the job they’ve started.
Asked what a vote for Tom Griffiths means next Tuesday, he said, “I think it is a vote in recognition of eight years of hard work that’s resulted in a hospital that is in good financial health and offers good health care service.”
Griffiths, 57, is the president of the Roaring Fork Valley region for Vectra Banks. He oversees 35 employees at four branches between El Jebel and Aspen.
He has lived in the area since 1976, when he moved here to work at First National Bank, located in the building now occupied by U.S. Bank. In 1985, he joined Pitkin County Bank, which was eventually bought out by Vectra.
Griffiths is married, without children, to architect Heidi Hoffmann. They live in an affordable-housing unit at Midland Park in Aspen.
In 1994, Griffiths says he was asked to run for the hospital board by Dave Stapleton, Sr., a retiring board member. “He probably asked me to run because I was a banker and had experience with budgets and finances.”
When he was elected in 1994, Griffiths says he found an institution that was flagging financially and had enormous trouble holding on to its top managers.
Since then, Griffiths says, the “revolving door” for CEOs has stopped spinning. Current CEO Randy Middlebrook just signed a multiyear contract extension. And the financial situation has been stabilized.
“We’re just one of two hospitals in the state to get a Triple-B rating by Fitch,” he said, explaining that Fitch is a credit rating service that specializes in analyzing hospital finances. “They would not have given us that without great scrutiny.”
Griffiths is puzzled by the public perception that the hospital board is less than forthcoming about its budget. He notes that the budget is deliberated by the board every year in open meetings, and is published for public scrutiny. However, hardly anyone shows up for the meetings or contacts him personally to talk about it, he said.
“I think people know they can get good care and sleep well at night because of it, but they don’t feel they need to know the details,” he said.
So what does Griffiths see as the accomplishments of the hospital boards he has worked on?
First and foremost is expanding the care and diversity of the services available at AVH to meet patient demands. The hospital has an internist, more family practitioners and more specialists than ever before, he notes.
Griffiths also points out that AVH has extended its service downvalley during his tenure, with the opening of the Mid-Valley Medical Center in Basalt. The center is capable of providing some surgical procedures and allows people to visit doctors without driving all the way up to Aspen.
Griffiths also takes credit for being on a hospital board that brought the institution’s finances under control. He points out that revenues have grown from $17 million to $54 million since 1994, the hospital has operated in the black seven of eight years he’s been on the board, and the voters have reauthorized the property tax levy that helps to support the hospital.
Griffiths would like another four years on the board to finish work on expanding and remodeling the hospital and overseeing annexation into the city of Aspen. “That is something I would like to see through,” he said.
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