Aspen Valley Hospital board election is May 5; a look at who’s running

Staff report

Two three-year terms on the board of directors for the Aspen Valley Hospital District are up for grabs in the Tuesday election. Incumbent directors Greg Balko and Mindy Nagle face challenger Michael Lyons in the contest, with mail-in ballots due by May 5. Voters also can drop off their ballots between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday at the hospital, located at 401 Castle Creek Road.

The following is a snapshot of the three candidates and why they are running for the hospital board.

Name: Greg Balko, MD

Age: 51

Profession: Board-certified emergency physician

Education: Undergraduate, Texas A&M; medical school, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas; residency, Wake Forest

Experience in health care/medicine: 25 years as an emergency physician

Family: Three children — Storey, Nate and Luke

Years in the Roaring Fork Valley: 22

Why you are you seeking re-election?

I am a board-certified emergency physician and I have lived in the valley and practiced medicine at AVH for 22 years. I believe in serving my community and I believe that I bring an important perspective to the board. We currently have five members. Two of us, Dr. Nagle and myself, are running for re-election this year and I believe that we each bring unique and essential physician perspectives to the board. The other three — Chuck Frias, Lee Schumacher and David Eisenstat — bring their own unique perspectives and have extensive experience in business, finance and law. The health care landscape is changing more rapidly now than I have ever seen. Whether it’s positioning AVH in a value-based health care system, to reduce the total cost of health care, or finding our way through a global pandemic, it is imperative that the board is represented by people who have the experience and understanding of all of these factors. I have the experience and knowledge necessary to continue to serve as your elected official to the hospital board. If re-elected, I will continue to bring the expertise to all the issues that affect our hospital with an eye towards how to best serve our patients.

Why will the AVH board of directors need you as a member the next three years as it addresses the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic?

AVH has been very proactive during this pandemic and we have planned and executed well. As a board member and as a physician, I have been involved in the process all along the way. I also serve as a physician/board liaison at the county level, where I serve on the Medical Advisory Team that advises the Board of Public Health. Having a board member who is a physician has been integral to our success as I have the working relationships in place with administration and the county that has allowed AVH to be a strong contributor to our community’s response. Likewise, being a physician on the front line is also vital, because I can report on the day-to-day operations of the hospital back to the board. Our preparedness goes back several years ago when I was involved in developing the plans for the hospital remodel. We built several infection control areas in our hospital to isolate patients. These have served us well during this viral outbreak, along with having the modern facilities and technological capabilities. Over the years we have developed a very robust incident command structure at the hospital which has been invaluable for us. Here the board, leadership team, managers and physicians work together to develop plans and solutions for all aspects of our response. Everything from: operations, planning, logistics, communications, finance, and how we can best support one another. We have also been proactive in developing a regional surge plan in coordination with area hospitals. The doctors, nurses, administration and ancillary staff have been incredible to work with during this crisis. We all came together collectively and we have worked tirelessly to solve problems and prepare the hospital for COVID-19, and support the community’s recovery through testing. The board and administration have supported the clinicians and have set safety of its employees and the needs of the patient as its top priority. In my 22 years here, I have never been more proud of the hospital and honored to go to work on the front lines with the brave men and women who are my colleagues.

Name: Michael J. Lyons

Age: 48

Profession: Firefighter, paramedic and photographer

Education: Colorado State University BA: Business

Experience in health care/medicine: 14 years as a paramedic

Family: My parents and entire family lives here (wife, two kids)

Years in the Roaring Fork Valley: I was born and raised here … 48 years.

Why you are running for a seat on the AVH board?

I decided to run for the hospital board when I received a 24% increase in my family’s health insurance premium last year. With the current conditions, where do you think your health insurance premiums will be next year? I have too many friends and family that are affected by these increases. Our community needs someone like me to watch over our hospital with a lens of providing excellent care while keeping costs in mind.

Why will the AVH board of directors need you as a member the next three years as it addresses the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic?

What do you expect your health insurance premiums are going to do next year? A maxim of former Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, states: Never let a good crisis go to waste. We live in a valley that has the most expensive health care costs in the country. The insurance premiums and costs we have today are going to pale in comparison to next year unless we elect someone who does not stand to gain financially by sitting on the board of AVH. The only financial gain I could hope for is to contain the costs of health care in our end of the valley. The other two candidates derive all of their income from being doctors at AVH. They could not pass a bright-line test in court to determine if they are “contractors” or “employees” of AVH. The law in Colorado does not allow for employees of a special district to sit on the board of directors. This is simply to protect property owners from “employees” (contractors) from raising taxes and costs on the electorate. Every time any business or individual has to pay more in health care costs in our town, this is a direct result of the leadership of AVH. It is time for a change at AVH. I want to ask the tough questions of senior management. I want to see exactly what is driving the astronomical costs of health care in our valley. I want to be elected to fix that, for my family and everyone else.

Name: Mindy Nagle, MD

Age: 52

Profession: OB/GYN physician at All Valley Women’s Care

Education: MD

Experience in health care/medicine: Been in practice in the valley since completing training in 2001; originally in the valley 1990 to 1993 working as tennis pro at Maroon Creek Club then back in 2001 after med school and residency.

Family: I have a partner of 17 years and two stepsons ages 19 and 24.

Why you are you seeking re-election?

I am running for re-election to the AVH board for the same reasons I felt it was important to initially run for a seat on the board. I feel very strongly that there needs to be physician representation on the board. The board has many oversight functions but to me the most important one is maintaining the focus of patient care. This to me answers your next question as well.

Why will the AVH board of directors need you as a member the next three years as it addresses the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We have no road map to dealing with the recent pandemic so staying up to date on the medical implications for our patients as well as our hospital staff and employees is paramount. There is an incredible breadth of information out there that is evolving and changing daily. Having physician leadership on all levels including the board is important as we make our way through this crisis.


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