Denver assesses impacts of two hospitals’ relocations to Aurora
DENVER – Denver and hospital officials are concerned that the relocation of two major hospitals to the Fitzsimons campus in Aurora this year could further strain other medical facilities.Of particular concern is the effect on Denver Health Medical Center, which logs nearly 97,000 visits a year to its emergency room and has to turn away ambulances 11 percent of the time because of crowding.The University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital will move from Denver to new facilities at Fitzsimons, a former Army medical center. St. Anthony Central Hospital plans to move from Denver to the Federal Center in Lakewood by 2010.The Veterans Affairs Medical Center is also moving to Fitzsimons.”The question is what are the implications for all of the remaining facilities and the patients that they serve,” said Steven Summer, chief executive officer of the Colorado Hospital Association.University, Childrens and St. Anthony hospitals account for 36 percent of the city’s staffed beds and about 159,000 annual emergency room visits combined.Denver officials worry that the hospitals’ new locations could be a burden to walk-in patients without cars and could make a difference in life-or-death situations.When St. Anthony Central moves, Denver Health will be the city’s only Level 1 trauma care center – the highest level of surgical care. Swedish Medical Center in the south suburb of Englewood is the region’s other adult Level 1 trauma center.Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper in February convened a series of meetings with officials from all the hospitals to assess the impact of the relocations.An issue looming over the reshuffling is the uninsured. A study released last year by the Institute of Medicine estimated that 770,000 Coloradans, or 17 percent of the state’s population, are uninsured.Nearly half of Denver Health’s patients in 2005 were uninsured, and another 27 percent were on Medicaid, the insurance for low-income Americans.Under new federal regulations proposed for Medicaid reimbursements, Denver Health could lose $75 million a year because it isn’t a unit of government with taxing authority.The concern about whether there will be enough emergency rooms to serve Denver’s core underscores the need for a systemic solution, said Dede de Percin, executive director of the nonprofit Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.University Hospital Chief Executive Bruce Schroffel said he doesn’t expect his hospital’s move to have much of an impact because Denver residents accounted for only 40 percent of emergency room admissions.Children’s Hospital is building a 16-bed emergency department at Exempla’s St. Joseph Hospital in Denver that will handle an estimated 15,000 patients each year, compared with 40,000 at the existing Children’s Hospital downtown Level 1 trauma center, said Jim Shmerling, Children’s chief executive.”We’re committed to maintaining a presence downtown and developing a network of care throughout the region,” Shmerling said.
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