CEO Blog: How many fingers am I holding up?

Two years ago I assumed the CEO position for Telluride Regional Medical Center excited for the great opportunity to lead the construction of a model Critical Access Hospital that would accommodate current and future health care needs for this community. As was pointed out to me recently by a former Hospital District board member, according to the plan two years ago, we should today be preparing for a grand opening of a new facility.

Alas, it was determined that the Mountain Village site that had been generously donated to the Hospital District, could not be developed as planned.

The Hospital District returned the parcel to Mountain Village and set out once again on the quest, which began in 2006, for a new site.

This has never been an easy mission. Developers hold much of the suitable land for the construction of a large medical facility. Parcels of land that can accommodate our project are either not available for sale, or have restrictions that inhibit the development. We also find hospital development pitted against another critical community need: affordable housing needs.

For forty years, we have maintained this facility. We’ve grown and modified the building numerous times, this summer we’re resorting to modifying a steel shipping container to accommodate our behavioral health services.

Our hands are tied. There is no room in the Medical Center to add additional providers to meet the growing health care needs of the community. And it’s not fiscally reasonable to continue to invest in this leased property.

To bring the facility up to current Medical, Life Safety, Building and Energy Codes would require increasing the facility to approximately 20,000-square-feet, (all without any added patient care capacity) according to an independent report.

Basic infrastructure (heating, cooling, etc) of the building is approaching end of life.

In the coming years we will have to make significant investments to bring these systems up to current standards. We will be making large investments in a building but will gain nothing in our ability to respond to the growing demand.

In March we dodged a bullet. After a surge in the town water system caused a backflow valve to fail, the lower level of the medical center flooded and threatened to destroy our vital computer systems. (Thanks to fast acting staff and support, crisis was ultimately averted).

The fact remains: computer systems for the community’s only primary and emergency care provider should not be located in an area that could be flooded — and yet, we have no alternatives.

Considering growth projections for the county, population is projected to more than double in the next thirty years. As the population grows, how can the current facilities accommodate a potential doubling of patient volumes?

The simple answer is it can not. Within the next few years we will no longer be able to accommodate growth in patient volume.

Our Medical Center board and staff are committed to working with local governments to address the significant housing needs — both these needs are vital. It’s not a choice between the two.

We continue to work with property owners to determine a pathway to acquisition of a site for the new facility. This is complicated decision for the owners and they are approaching this business decision very thoughtfully.

We are encouraged by the support of our local governments in our search for a viable solution.

It is clear that our ability to provide the community access to the best possible healthcare in the future cannot be achieved without their support and partnership.

We are committed, we have not abandoned hope! We hope you will not either.


John Gardner

John Gardner, CEO, FACHE
Telluride Regional Medical Center