Hospital needs to expand
Recently I have read letters from citizens stating nonfactual opinions regarding the plans for the Aspen Valley Hospital facility expansion. As a former board member and practicing physician, I have unique understanding and insight on this matter.
AVH is not, nor is it intended to be, a regional medical center. We are a community hospital that focuses on health care services that we can provide safely and with excellence. To that end, the board specifically directed the administration to redesign our facility for the scope of services we currently provide. There are no plans to expand services; we will continue to refer patients to other hospitals as appropriate.
We have spent a great deal of time determining what amount of space was necessary to bring our facility up to current-day standards. I want to assure the members of the public that this is a vital, necessary and right-sized project for this community. We pride ourselves on delivering outstanding care to our community. However, we direly need more space.
AVH was built in 1977 primarily as an inpatient facility. Since that time, health care delivery has drastically changed. When the hospital was built, CT scans and MRIs didn’t exist, privacy was not a primary concern, rooms were double occupancy, and physician practices were small, independent practices located outside of the hospital. In contrast, health care today is now outpatient-oriented, private rooms with solid barriers are the standard, and physician practices are integrated on campus.
Because of our efforts over the years to incorporate outpatient services, today our outpatient and inpatient areas are inappropriately commingled. Patients have to wait in the hallways for outpatient testing, and surgical patients have to be transported down public corridors. In our emergency department, patients are only separated by curtains. Conversations between the doctor and patient are impossible to keep private. The hospital staff is constantly stepping over themselves and patients due to space constraints.
There are good reasons that most communities – large, small, rural or urban – have medical offices on campus: They improve the delivery of health care. As an ER physician, I have nothing to gain by bringing medical offices to the hospital, but my patients do. Imagine a terribly injured patient in need of emergent intervention by the trauma surgeons or an unexpected complication of labor in a pregnant woman. The patient would be able to have immediate attention by a surgeon or obstetrician if their practices were relocated to the hospital. Doctors would also be able to come to the emergency department or inpatient unit during their office hours to see their patients contemporaneously. Patients will be able to park near their doctor’s office and avoid all of the accessibility problems that currently exist. No doubt a win-win scenario for the hospital, doctor and patient.
And finally, let me clear up the rumor. There will not be a subsidy to the physicians. Federal law explicitly prohibits that. Physicians will pay fair-market prices to lease their space.
Greg Balko, M.D.
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