Will Aspen hospital expansion get the go-ahead? | AspenTimes.com

Will Aspen hospital expansion get the go-ahead?

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council is expected to vote tonight on whether to approve the second phase of a massive expansion of Aspen Valley Hospital. It is the largest component of a four-phase project, which hospital officials say is needed to help it comply with federal patient privacy rules and allow doctors quicker access to their patients.

If the council says AVH can move forward with the project – at an estimated cost of about $120 million, to be funded by several sources including a proposed property tax increase – hospital CEO Dave Ressler says the hospital will be able to better serve the community.

The expansion will nearly triple the hospital’s current size.

Some residents of nearby neighborhoods say the expansion, highlighted by 18 affordable housing units, a new road to encompass the property, and 27,000 square feet of new medical office space, will be a noisy eyesore that will add little value to the hospital’s mission. They also contend that it will be a medical redundancy in the valley, citing a similar expansion to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.

Ressler assured council members last month that the hospital needs every part of the expansion, citing the fact that some doctors have to drive from Aspen’s core to care for their patients – time hospital staffers argue could mean the difference between life and death in some emergencies.

“We’re behind the times; we’re just trying to catch up,” Ressler said during the council’s second public hearing of the proposal. “We’re 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound bag.”

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The project is not intended to create new medical capabilities, Ressler said, stressing that it is important AVH stick to what it specializes in.

If approved, funding for the project will come from four different sources: savings from hospital revenues; tax-exempt revenue bonds; a property tax hike, which would require voter approval; and donations from the hospital foundation.

The property tax increase would likely go on the ballot in November 2010, May 2011 or November 2011.

The portion of the burden those different sources will bear has yet to be determined, Ressler said, because of the preliminary nature of the proposal – the $120 million price tag is just a projection right now. The hospital is fostering a relationship with a potential contractor for the expansion, Haselden Construction, which is currently finalizing a bid for the building.

The first phase of the effort, a new maternity ward, is already completed.

ahedge@aspentimes.com