Leadville hospital facing closure could be saved by Centura Health
February 5, 2015
The hospital that has served Leadville for the last 135 years and was set to shut down in March now may not close completely.
The five-member board of the publicly owned St. Vincent Hospital announced in early January that it would oust the facility's former management company, Quorum Health Resources, and replace it with Centura Health.
Centura, the nonprofit health care system that runs St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, is Colorado's largest health network.
"It's good for these smaller hospitals to be aligned with a larger system" with the resources to deal with changes in health care, said Paul Chodkowski, CEO of St. Anthony Summit. "That's where health care is going. You can't have everything everywhere. You have to have partnerships."
Plagued for years by deteriorating facilities, high workforce turnover, administrative vacancies, outdated equipment and locals who chose to use medical services farther away, St. Vincent announced in November it would phase out all services by March 31 after voters did not pass a tax increase to support the hospital.
Some of the roughly 7,300 residents of Lake County expressed fears of being forced to travel at least 45 minutes — longer if faced with traffic or inclement weather — over high mountain passes to get to the Frisco hospital for care.
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St. Vincent closed its long-term care facility and surgery operations in November, followed by its dietary, home oxygen, home health care and physical therapy services. The business office, laundry and patient meals were outsourced.
For now, the hospital is still providing ambulance, emergency room, family medical, imaging, laboratory, pharmacy and respiratory therapy services.
'A NATURAL PROGRESSION'
The hospital received two other management proposals, and its board decided on Centura because of the nonprofit's track record managing rural hospitals, established nearby medical network and its proposed cost to the hospital.
St. Vincent was one of 10 affiliate hospitals Centura has been working with in recent years to provide medical support, help recruit employees and assist with negotiations of discounts and services.
"We view this as kind of a natural progression of that relationship," said Russ Johnson, Centura Health senior vice president for outreach health.
The two parties will likely sign an agreement later this week, and much remains undetermined. Hospital board president Dennis Johnson wrote in a community update that in response to board member concerns, Centura adjusted its proposal so that it would provide all management services at no charge for the first four months.
Then in months five and six, he wrote, St. Vincent would pay Centura only for the direct costs of the salaries and benefits of the CEO and CFO.
Centura Health's Sam Radke started Monday, Feb. 2, as interim CEO. Radke has more 30 years experience in the health care industry, and he worked for a short time at St. Vincent about 10 years ago, Johnson wrote.
Former CEO Joyce Beck and CFO Ric Eisenring will stay on another week or two to help with the transition.
"If everything goes the way we hope, we will have agreements in place for long-term health care services by June or July," Dennis Johnson wrote. Then construction or renovation of facilities would begin. "This is what we are all hoping for."
'CANNOT GO WITHOUT'
In November, the hospital employed 107 full- and part-time staff members, as well as roughly 45 PRNs, or health care professionals who work shifts about once a week or as needed. Three months later, there remain about 72 full-time and PRN employees, most of whom work in emergency services and the family clinic.
The hospital's remaining staff soon should see Centura bringing stability and a future vision of health care services, Russ Johnson said. He said he hopes the employees will feel supported by Centura's family of hospitals.
Centura will assess the hospital's facility and other needs over the next few months, and then Centura may decide to invest in hospital repairs, build a new hospital or pursue other options.
"We don't know what's going to happen, but we don't want people to panic and leave because it's still a hospital and it's still providing important services in the community," he said.
Centura officials believe the challenges St. Vincent faces in Leadville mirror obstacles rural health care centers are struggling with nationwide, like new technology expectations and the same regulatory requirements applied to larger, urban facilities.
"We have told the community that we're committed to helping determine a sustainable model for health care services in Lake County and Leadville," Russ Johnson said. "That population of people should not and cannot go without health care services."
The St. Vincent Hospital board meets on the fourth Thursday of the month at 5:15 p.m. in the hospital conference room. The next meeting will be Feb. 26.