No AVH plan yet, but new gear
ASPEN It will be months before local residents get a clear picture of the plans for expanding and improving the facilities at Aspen Valley Hospital.But the hospital board spent nearly a $1 million this week on systems designed to work with those expansion plans.Hospital staff and consultants have been working since last year on plans for a significant expansion of the 30-year old Aspen Valley Hospital building, updating both the overall facility, and the equipment and services it offers.The board approved the general plan early last year and in October gave the nod to a $6.5 million expansion and upgrade of the obstetrics and maternity ward as the first phase of the broader facilities master plan.CEO David Ressler said planners have been working recently to see “what can wait and what can’t wait.” The administration originally was hoping to bring plans, cost estimates and a loose construction schedule to the board by the end of 2006, Ressler said. Now he does not expect a presentation until at least May.The board and administration have been making decisions incorporating the expansion plans, in terms of buying new equipment, remodeling the obstetrics wing and preparing to hire a permanent in-house physician known as a “hospitalist.”Ressler said the board this week authorized nearly $1 million in funds to buy new electronic equipment for certain departments as part of a strategic plan.One approval was for an “operating room management” system, consisting of computer workstations and special software for workflow automation and documentation of operating room cases.The system, spokeswoman Ginny Dyche said, is “part of moving toward a hospitalwide EMR [Electronic Medical Records] system. Ressler and the board has been seeking ways to computerize record keeping, eliminate vast amounts of paper records, and speed up the various record-keeping and patient-tracking functions that are now mainly on paper.The board authorized the purchases of new encryption software to increase the security of the hospital’s records and e-mail system; a Pyxis supply station; several automated dispensers of supplies; implements for placement at different locations around the facility; and a new server to upgrade the computer network.Other initiatives in line with the facilities master plan, Ressler said, are the purchase of a 64-slice CT scanner; creation of a “concierge” position to assist out-of-town patients; and a decision to maintain a “help line” for those who need help with billing disputes.Ressler said fiscal health continues to improve, noting the hospital district boasts roughly $24 million in reserves, enough to keep the facility operating for more than 200 days without any revenue coming in. That “rainy day reserve,” he said, is “far better than the national standard,” which he identified as 152 days.As a result, according to a report last October by Chief Financial Officer Terry Collins, the hospital will be able to build the new maternity ward, using leftover money from a bond sale three years ago, supplemented by reserve cash.Once the master plan is finished and the general costs are known, Ressler said, the district will begin working on exactly how to pay for the project. He said the funding likely will be a mix of spending down reserves to a point still considered safe by bureaucratic standards, looking for philanthropic donations from wealthy supporters and seeking broader public support from district residents.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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