By all indications, 2020 at the Telluride Regional Medical Center was going to be another challenging year for staff and healthcare providers as they endeavored, as they have for years, to balance patient growth in a facility ill-suited and undersized for the demand.

Then the pandemic hit.

By the end of January, doctors at the medical center were sending out communication dispatches to the community, raising awareness and offering guidance and information about the novel coronavirus. 

Internally, however, there wasn’t a single aspect of how the clinic functions that wasn’t being reevaluated and recalibrated, at a breakneck speed, to keep staff and patients safe. 

Straight away telehealth capabilities were expanded and rolled out; exam rooms were retrofitted to meet CDC ventilation guidelines for respiratory illnesses; and new protocols changed everything from protective gear, to how the building is maintained — to phone triage tactics and how and where patients could access care. 

By mid-March, with the help of community partners, a tented outdoor respiratory clinic was erected outside the facility to keep patients requiring COVID-19 tests or attention for respiratory symptoms separate from patients with non-COVID healthcare needs.

The transformation our staff has taken on in the last six months cannot be understated. 

It’s been nothing short of herculean. Everyone here has taken on new and more responsibilities, more stress and for many of the staff, this has come at great personal sacrifice. 

That the staff could rise to this unprecedented crisis, is due in large part to the overwhelming support we’ve been given.

Everything from face shields, to coffee cups, gift cards and hand sanitizer has been donated. Also, dozens of locals have lent their own personal oximeters and oxygen concentrators; hundreds of meals have been sponsored or donated to feed our staff; and donations and grant commitments have poured in from every corner of our community. 

The list of people and local organizations we have to thank is pages long.The community support has been truly remarkable. 

Nonetheless, at present, our expenses are up nearly 17 percent and revenue is trending 8.3 percent under budget. Patient visits for the year nosedived in March and April, but are increasing as more patients return to their healthcare schedules and take advantage of the clinic’s telehealth services. 

In this new normal — and for the foreseeable future — each patient visit requires more protective gear, more cleaning protocols and more time all around. Decreased capacity is the cost for ensuring we can safely care for the community and it’s a reality we’re unwilling to make compromises for. 

What this means for the financial wellbeing of our non-profit medical center — the safety net for this region — is continued and ongoing efforts to pursue financial aid, grants and, yes, charitable support from our community. 

As ever, our long term goal is to serve the community from a facility that can meet the needs of the region. This crisis has only exasperated an already untenable situation. 

I believe the community, at large, agrees: We have outgrown the 10,000 square-foot cottage built in the 1960s. 

Experts have told us, our current facility is half the size of what we need to meet current medical codes and present capacity — and this is without taking into consideration future capacity projections or the myriad new realities highlighted by today’s global pandemic. 

Our governing board, the Telluride Hospital District, will continue to work with Genesee Properties to secure a 2.6 acre parcel of land at Society Turn as a site for a permanent home for the medical facility this community desperately needs and deserves. 

In the meantime, we are here for  you. And, more than ever, we also know that you are here for us too. 

Thank you, 

Karen Winkelmann | CEO

Telluride Medical Center