Hospital plans expansion |

Hospital plans expansion

John Colson

Officials are expecting to spend up to $40 million on upgrades to Aspen Valley Hospital within the next few years.The AVH board of directors voted this week to spend $80,000 to hire an architectural firm from Denver to get the process going. Hospital CEO David Ressler said HLM Architects will base its work on a master plan drawn up in 2001 in anticipation of a $34 million expansion plan.After the hospital ran into financial trouble that led to the firing of the hospital’s top two administrators, Randy Middlebrook and Verna Bartlett, much of the planned expansion was scrapped. The hospital did spend about $6 million on upgrades to surgical services, the operating room, the cardiology clinic and pharmacy facilities. An additional $6 million was earmarked for improvements but has not yet been spent, Ressler said.”We’re going to pause here while we do the needs assessment and say, ‘What’s next?'” Ressler said, explaining that the consultant will “revisit the original plans to see if that $34 million is still a good number. It could be $42 million. It’s difficult to say.”Whatever the final figure, he said, it is not likely remodeling and upgrading will take place all at once. “One fell swoop may not be the final answer because we’re going to have to live in this hospital as we work on it.”HLM has worked with Aspen Valley Hospital in the past, and “they have a lot of experience, they’ve done a lot of hospitals.”At this point, Ressler said, the general goal of the upgrade program is “really to put a new face on the hospital … improving the flow, the efficiency” of the different departments.The upgrades must be “something that takes the hospital to being much more outpatient oriented,” Ressler said. The number of beds is not expected to be reduced, but the outpatient services will be increased as a percentage of the hospital’s overall services. Ressler said the hospital’s outpatient load has been growing steadily, while the inpatient demands have remained relatively constant.A decision on whether to add a floor to the one-story hospital has yet to be made.Ressler and the board are hoping the consultants will finish their work within the next six months.”We want to do this promptly,” Ressler said. “But we won’t want to make mistakes now by not allowing the proper process to take place.”John Colson’s e-mail address is

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