World-class hospital will benefit us all

Dear Editor:

I offer my thoughts on the Aspen Valley Hospital expansion as a resident of the valley and as one who experiences daily the impact of hospitalization on patients.

Serving as its chaplain for the past 16 years, I have witnessed the growth of Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. I have sat by the bedside of countless patients. I have listened to patients and the community’s concerns over the hospital’s growth, size and the architecture of Valley View’s expansion. I also have listened to the many patients and their family members who later, in their time of need, were grateful for the intentionality of the hospital’s design, its sensitivity to human need and the level of health care provided.

Major medical advances have transformed the way we think about health care today and the facilities we create to serve those needs. Hospital consultants and medical professionals continually research how quality of care is defined. As a nonclinical yet very involved team member of Valley View’s staff, I have observed strategic planning by every department: constantly redefining efficiency, evidence-based measurement of outcomes and efforts to reduce error while addressing healing of the whole patient – body, mind and spirit.

Formerly, hospital care equated to medical intervention only. Today’s holistic approach incorporates the best of medical science while recognizing that physical environment can influence well-being and promote healing. My personal experiences helping those suffering grief and loss testify that the comforting, beautiful, serene environment offers dignity and respect to the most difficult situations with unspoken words that say, “You are valued; your life is treasured and honored.”

The deliberate design features support the delivery of the best medical care available while sensitively addressing the patient’s loss of autonomy, inevitable apprehension, feelings of alienation, isolation and often loneliness and intimidation. Beautiful private rooms offer the ability for loved ones to stay overnight with the patient, further reducing the stress and anxiety formerly created by cold, noisy and often crowded clinical environments.

If you have ever needed to spend even one night in this hospital, you will know that you are in a healing environment at Valley View. The planned improvements at Aspen Valley Hospital will provide just such a setting.

Valley View hospital is large against the landscape of the small, mountain town of Glenwood Springs. It was and undoubtedly is expensive to operate; what large institution operating 24/7 isn’t? I know the return has been great, attracting excellent physicians and caregivers and providing the best of medical care in a therapeutic environment.

Federal regulations add to the facility size and cost of health care. Small hospitals like Aspen Valley Hospital have been especially challenged by more stringent federal U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rules emphasizing acoustic and visual privacy for patients and demanding locations that handle medical records and communication be secured. These often require extensive, expensive remodeling or rebuilding.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations continually raises the bar on all hospitals, regardless of size, to improve health care for the public, inspiring them to provide safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. There is heightened awareness of the equipment sterilization process, laundry procedures and cleanliness. Highly sophisticated diagnostic and treatment technology and increased numbers of medical specialists require more space.

On any given day, the potential medical demands at Aspen Valley Hospital are no different from that at any big-city hospital in America. Even if a patient ultimately is transported to a larger facility, the patient first must be treated and stabilized. The level of competence and readiness by Aspen Valley Hospital staff must include everything from the joyous birth of healthy babies to complicated critical neonatal emergencies. Aspen Valley Hospital provides medical care ranging from routine preventative diagnostic imaging and screening that we all expect and depend on to life-saving care when there is a traumatic injury. Cancer, cardiac conditions, surgeries, physical therapy and rehabilitation, medical care for the elderly, psychiatric and behavioral health concerns all present themselves at Aspen Valley Hospital for treatment. Aspenites are not immune to the medical challenges of our complicated bodies and lives. Having a larger facility just 40 miles down the road is not close enough.

A philosophy for wellness is not unknown to the Aspen community with many embracing a vision of alternative modalities of healing in addition to traditional western medical science including good nutrition and fitness.

We all want the best in our lives. We budget for the newest and latest in ski equipment, biking gear, entertainment and exercise equipment. We stress if we miss our visit to the gym for Pilates or yoga. We’re eating organic foods, meditating and praying in ways most powerful to each of us as individuals. We don’t hesitate buying the newest communication devices we all carry in our pockets (I’m as guilty as everyone). We can also make the financial choice to support the future of our own ongoing health care. Few of us plan for or anticipate illness or injury. Yet, when and if the need arises, we all deserve the best.

I am grateful to the generous donors and benefactors to our hospitals, past, present and future. My husband and I will soon be moving back to Aspen. Along with you, we will support with our tax dollars the intelligent expansion of AVH so that it can support us, our families and our community. I believe in the importance of the ongoing hospital building project. We need to all tell our elected officials that we want a health care facility equal to this world-class community.

Patty Harris

Chaplain and director of Spiritual Care

Valley View Hospital

Glenwood Springs