Hospital planning under way
SUMMIT COUNTY – Hospital planning officially began Thursday, less than a month after St. Anthony’s Hospitals, Centura Health and Summit County officials announced plans for a medical campus southeast of Frisco.
A 25-bed hospital, surgery center and medical office building are proposed on the 16-acre medical campus. Future expansions of the hospital and surgery center are also part of the proposal.
The proposed medical campus is south of Highway 9 and east of the existing County Commons buildings. The White River National Forest surrounds the site on three sides.
“We reviewed 18 different sites in the area, including four off I-70. This is the one,” said Bob Fling, corporate director of construction for Centura Health.
Hospital planners got their first earful of public comments at the Ten Mile Planning Commission public work session Thursday night. About 40 people, including Summit Medical Center staff, Flight for Life paramedics, elected officials and county residents attended.
“We’re planning a two-story structure, but we might consider going higher,” said Matthew Manning, an architect working on hospital plans.
At three stories tall, the hospital might be taller than the trees surrounding the site.
With years of experience working with hospitals, Dillon Mayor Barbara Davis offered one reason why planners should allow the new hospital to be several stories tall in the future.
“I know some people are concerned about mountain views, but it is ineffective to work in a ranch-style hospital,” Davis said. “If it makes more sense to go up, they should be given the latitude to do so.”
Ten Mile Planning Commissioner Dan Basica said he agreed with Davis, adding that a hospital would be an important public service on limited county land.
Planning commissioners and residents urged county planner Lindsay Hirsh and hospital planners to study traffic issues.
Two access roads are planned. One would extend south from Highway 9 and the other would extend from existing County Commons roads. Winter weekend traffic between Breckenridge and Interstate 70 could affect ambulance access, said Ruth Hertzberg, Ten Mile Planning Commissioner.
“I really do foresee terrible traffic problems,” Hertzberg said. “We need to think ahead on this.”
County officials have had continuous talks with the Colorado Department of Transportation to try to alleviate crowding on Highway 9 and I-70.
Residents from the nearby neighborhood of Bill’s Ranch had additional advice about traffic. Already concerned about drivers taking short cuts between Frisco and the County Commons, the neighbors asked planners to consider a gated-access road to the medical campus.
Bill’s Ranch residents would experience fewer Flight for Life helicopter flyovers with the new hospital, planners said. To fly to Denver, helicopters currently leave the Summit Medical Center in Frisco, follow Highway 9 south and east toward Breckenridge then pass by the east side of Dillon Reservoir. The new helipad would cut out the distance over most Frisco area neighborhoods.
The new hospital would upgrade health care in the county from Level 4 to Level 3. Major Denver Level 1 hospitals would still handle some emergency patients from Summit County.
Hertzberg said she was concerned that a 25-bed hospital would not be large enough, especially because a 50-bed hospital was proposed in the county in the 1970s but never was built.
Health care has changed significantly since the 1970s, said nurses and Summit Medical Center administrators at the meeting. Doctors do not prescribe as many lengthy hospital stays as they once did. They now focus on outpatient care.
Centura officials said the 25-bed hospital will serve the county population and visitors until at least 2015. The hospital might be finished by December 2005, if the commission approves rezoning in January.
Before the evening hearing, residents trickled into an open house on the planning of the hospital throughout the day. Dillon resident John Karras, a retiree, said he hopes the new hospital brings more doctors to the area.
“It’s sorely needed up here,” Karras said. “There’s one cardiologist between Denver and Grand Junction in Edwards.”
Before the county and St. Anthony’s announced hospital plans last month, doctors have been calling Summit Medical Center administrators once a week about working in Summit County in the future.
Residents concerned about staffing levels suggested planners study seasonal patient levels at the Summit Medical Center.
Tours of the hospital site are available, Hirsh said. The formal rezoning request and development application will likely be presented to the Ten Mile Planning Commission in January. The Summit Board of County Commissioners will decide the rezoning and development issues after receiving planning commission advisement.
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