Let’s improve Aspen health care | AspenTimes.com

Let’s improve Aspen health care

Dear Editor:

On Nov. 2, the Aspen Valley Hospital board of directors is asking the voters of the hospital district to make a critical decision about health care in our community for decades to come. Ballot questions 5A and 5B ask for your support of the hospital’s master facilities plan via the issuance of general obligation bonds.

This request is not made lightly, but it is made after a great deal of hard work, analysis and careful deliberation. As many of you remember, just a few years ago the hospital’s finances were in need of immediate attention. The board tackled the issues, made difficult decisions, and ultimately stabilized operations and “righted the ship.” With the assistance of a new CEO and CFO, we were able to build reserves and obtain an investment-grade bond rating. We then turned our attention to developing our Master Facilities Plan (MFP).

Working for years with doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, Aspen Valley Medical Foundation and a citizens’ advisory group, the MFP slowly took shape. Our objectives were to create a contemporary facility that would meet the needs of the community both now and for the next 20-30 years, as well as address changing industry standards and patient expectations. We also felt that it was important to incorporate medical office space onto the hospital campus. These offices will be leased to physicians at fair market value (no subsidy) and will enhance quality and convenience for patients.

In 2009 we received conceptual approval from the city of Aspen for the entire plan. And earlier this year, final approval was obtained for Phase II of the four-part plan (Phase I was previously completed.)

With the city approval step behind us, it was then time to refine our funding plan. We believe that a shared-cost approach is the best approach, with financial resources to include public funds, private donations and hospital reserves.

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Challenging economic times weighed heavily on our minds as we debated the timing of a bond election. But strong financial positioning, the favorable cost of debt and construction, and the necessity of modernizing and upgrading our 33-year-old hospital influenced our decision to move forward at this time. It is the prudent thing to do.

Cost to the taxpayer is approximately $3 per month for a $500,000 property or $18 per month for a $3 million property. This is a small price to pay for the health care needed in this community. Residents and visitors alike deserve a contemporary hospital – one that supports our outstanding doctors, nurses, therapists and other health care professionals.

Please vote “yes” on 5A and 5B. It’s pennies a day for a priceless investment in your health and community. Thank you.

board of directors, Aspen Valley Hospital

Chuck Frias, Barry Mink, M.D.; Mindy Nagle, M.D.; , John Sarpa and Lee Schumacher