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BOCC: Hospital talks in final stages

SUMMIT COUNTY – Centura Health and Summit County officials have nearly sealed a deal to bring a hospital to the area.

“We’re at the final negotiation stages,” County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom said Monday. “We’re not at the point where we’re making any announcements, but we’re hammering out details. It looks good.”

The commissioners, county manager Ron Holliday and county attorney Jeff Huntley adjourned to executive session Monday morning to talk about those negotiations. While commissioners couldn’t talk publicly about the details of the session, they said they don’t see anything that will derail the project.



The county and Centura, owner of Frisco’s Summit Medical Center and Denver’s St. Anthony’s hospitals, have been talking for more than a year about building a hospital in Summit County. Under the current proposal, Centura would lease county land near the County Commons to build its facility.

County Commissioner Tom Long believes Centura could break ground on the hospital in 2004.



“Unless something just flies up in our faces, I think that’s a realistic thought,” he said. “I’d say this summer, we’ll be able to get an agreement and be ready to work.”

Long’s tone about the negotiations is far different now than it was in January, when he said conflicts between the two parties had hit a potentially insurmountable stumbling block. Then, he feared the Catholic theology under which St. Anthony’s operates its facilities could put a stop to any plans for a county hospital.

Hospital officials said the facilities’ allowable procedures are outlined in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Service, which forbid abortions, tubal ligations, vasectomies or sterilization and encourage natural family planning instead of contraception.

Long said he didn’t feel a hospital with those standards should be allowed to do business on county land, saying he worried the Catholic influence could make it more difficult for local residents to gain access to those reproductive-related procedures. Long said he was also concerned the hospital wouldn’t honor the county’s same-sex benefits.

“I don’t want to hitch my wagon to a team that’s maybe not going to take me into the 22nd century,” he said then.

Three months later, those issues appear to have been resolved, although neither Lindstrom nor Long can yet explain just how that’s been done.

“They have answered those, I think, to everyone’s satisfaction,” Long said. “We found out there are some very crafty ways to do leases.”

Centura Health officials couldn’t be reached Monday for comment on the negotiations.

The county commissioners have said that in addition to a hospital, they want to see a medical office building and community care clinic.

Local doctors have complained that a lack of adequate medical facilities leaves them at a disadvantage because many potential patients seek treatment in Vail or Denver instead of Summit County.

In 1998, a task force assigned by the Summit Leadership Forum to study the county’s medical needs recommended a medical facility campus, including a 25-bed hospital and facilities for an assisted-living center, nursing home, senior center and hospice. While some of those needs are being met through the construction of the senior center, the demand for a hospital remains unfilled.

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com


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