Specialized facility should be regional | AspenTimes.com

Specialized facility should be regional

Sidney N. Smock, M.D.
board certified anesthesiologist

As a taxpaying resident of Pitkin County for more than 20 years, I am very concerned about the proposed specialized hospital being considered for Aspen. My wife and I have been very involved with health-care planning and organization in Michigan and Arizona for more than 40 years.

Many such specialized centers have been tried and failed. Inevitably, failure is due to inadequate population base. Regardless if these specialized centers are orthopedic, plastic or ophthalmological, they require nearby support services as one would have in New York City. These services would be necessary even for elective surgery.

From my professional experience, such services would include blood products, cardiac, pulmonary and urological. Such services require an adequate population base to survive regardless of the amount of private funding available. If regionalization of such a hospital were to be considered, then a critical mass or population might be available. This might be true if the specialized services were located in Glenwood Springs and acted as a regional center for the I-70 corridor from Grand Junction to Aspen, Vail and Telluride.

Another factor that must be considered is seasonal variation for demand. Joint replacement therapy is becoming more common for trauma. If such a specialized center were located in Glenwood Springs, trauma from the I-70 corridor would mean more consistent demand in the non-skiing season.

Ischemia, or reduced blood flow to an extremity, is another complication of joint replacement therapy. Such is also of major concern with cardiac and pulmonary complications. Since Aspen is nearly 2,000 feet higher in elevation than a possible regional center in Glenwood Springs, the available oxygen for an ischemic extremity, heart or lung is reduced. Such a complication could have legal ramifications involving reduced tissue oxygen and necessitate use of hyperbaric oxygen or transfer to a lower elevation.

I am not opposed to specialized hospitals, but realistically they should be regional with an adequate population base.