Hospital expansion will enhance patient care

Dear Editor:

In response to Ms. Ann Smock’s letter, I agree that the Aspen Valley Hospital expansion needs a critical look (“AVH expansion needs critical look,” March 22, The Aspen Times).

There have been intensive and critical ongoing evaluations of the project since the beginning. The entire project has been reviewed by many experts in many fields with the input of the medical staff the entire time. This was always a plan to completely renovate the hospital as much as possible without moving to another site. Moving to another site was discussed early on, and every option was considered.

It is wrong to say Phase II related very little to patient care. It is completely about patient care. Some have pointed out that a new cafeteria has nothing to do with patient care. Prior to Phase II completion, surgery patients were wheeled down a hallway where everyone had to walk to get to the cafeteria. No privacy, substandard infection control, people whom you may not want even knowing you’re in the hospital walking right past you or trying to talk to you.

Phase II also brought new patient rooms with up-to-date standards for infection control, comfort and privacy as well as state-of-the-art physical therapy and an infusion/chemotherapy clinic.

As far as not building the new emergency room and surgery area until Phases III and IV, there is a very good reason for that. As chief of staff at the time the plans were made, and as an emergency physician, trust me when I say we looked at that sequence of events thoroughly. We had to build out from the center, adding new spaces to renovated old space. We could not add the emergency room onto an old building that needed completely new infrastructure. It would have required closing the emergency room and most of the hospital completely for a year or more to accomplish that. Plus, there would have been no parking at the hospital unless we moved the parking areas first. Everyone understands the critical need for a new emergency room, but it was just not feasible without moving the hospital to a new site, which itself was not feasible.

I cannot speak for all of the hospital utilization numbers; they will provide that information. But I can tell you that in the emergency room, we average 21 patients a day, and that number may be more than 60 on busy days; the most we have ever seen in a day is about 120. We are doing procedures in a room that was built in 1977, when there might have been two or three people taking care of the patient. Now it may be five to eight people and may require using large equipment that did not exist in 1977.

This is a doctor-driven plan, and we need this to give you the best possible medical care. We need about the amount of square footage of three large Red Mountain homes that sit unoccupied for most of the year.

Dr. Steve Ayers