Aspen Valley Hospital’s orthopedic department hooks up with Hospital for Special Surgery |

Aspen Valley Hospital’s orthopedic department hooks up with Hospital for Special Surgery

Aspen Valley Hospital CEO David Ressler, standing at the podium, announced Sunday at the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation's annual fundraising event the pending partnership with New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery. Standing behind him are AVH Foundation President and CEO Deborah Breen and Foundation Chairman John Sarpa.
Courtesy photo

Aspen Valley Hospital is hoping to up its game in the orthopedic arena by joining forces with a national hospital heralded for its work in the field.

The Aspen hospital, along with the OrthoAspen specialist group that it runs, has agreed in principle with New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery to enter into a co-management partnership.

The 25-bed hospital initially announced the alliance Sunday at Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation’s polo fundraising event Sunday; the AVH board of directors unanimously approved the partnership through a 5-0 vote at its regular monthly meeting Monday. The arrangement will become official following the finalization of the term sheet and the due-diligence period, said Aspen Valley Hospital CEO David Ressler.

The initial term of the contract is for five years, Ressler said in an interview Tuesday, “but as far as we are concerned, this is a long-term relationship and not for five years.”

He declined to reveal financial aspects of the deal.

Physicians at OrthoAspen also expressed support for the agreement to the board before it made its decision. One of them, Dr. Tom Pevny, said having Hospital for Special Surgery as a partner not only will expand OrthoAspen’s medical capabilities and open its physicians up to another level of research and development, but it also will enhance its reputation because “word will spread” among potential patients.

“And once it does,” Pevny told the board, “people will understand what we’re involved with, and I think that will bring a certain level of credibility that maybe we’ve been lacking in a little bit. … I think the name is very important and we’ll want to take advantage of that.”

Board member Dr. Greg Balko admitted that he had been “very skeptical” of the proposition but warmed up to it because of the support OrthoAspen doctors showed for it.

“It’s going to take a lot of commitment on your part to make this work and you guys know that, and that’s probably the most exciting part. … It’s not going to work if we don’t all commit to it.”

Hospital for Special Surgery, commonly referred to as HSS, was founded in 1863 — it originally was called Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled — and is the oldest musculoskeletal medicine facility in the U.S., according to published reports.

Just this month, U.S. News & World Report ranked HSS the No. 1 hospital in the country for orthopedics in 2018, the ninth straight year it claimed the accolade. Earning the No. 2 post was the Mayo Clinic, followed by the Cleveland Clinic at No. 3.

HSS will provide AVH with such services as medical staff development, professional education, research and academic programming, among others.

While the partnership will help better position AVH and OrthoAspen to capture more patients from the Roaring Fork Valley who might use The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Ressler said the joint agreement is “not reactive to that. We certainly applaud that service in Vail, but this is a function of the shared values that we have with HHS (Hospital Special Surgery).”

Discussions with HSS have been ongoing for nearly a year and were driven by AVH physicians, Ressler said.

“This is not just an affiliation,” he told the board Monday. “It is skin in the game for both parties committed to building a high-quality program and creating a medical bridge between our two organizations.”

OrthoAspen will keep its name and Ressler said there will be minimal if any staffing changes.

For patients, the difference won’t be noticeable immediately, Ressler said in the interview.

“They’ll see the same staff here and the same surgeons, so they would have to be able to compare periods of time to be able to see the changes as they take effect,” he said Tuesday.

Changes will come, however, Mike Kimbel told the board.

Kimbel, director of OrthoAspen, will serve as of the director of the so-called service line for the hospital’s orthopedic services and report to both HHS and AVH. Kimbel’s job will have him involved in all facets of the orthopedic-services process, from imaging to scheduling surgeries.

Kimbel told the board that the new system should take away the hassles patients experience by having to sometimes call eight different numbers to get answers about a single orthopedic procedure. Under the new system they can call one number and talk to one individual about their needs.

HHS is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) hospital, while Aspen Valley Hospital, founded in 1891, also carries a nonprofit designation because it is supported, in part, by tax revenue.

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