New hospital expansion jumps ahead of schedule |

New hospital expansion jumps ahead of schedule

Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

FRISCO ” Since its opening in December, St. Anthony’s Summit Medical Center has reached inpatient capacity a number of times ” and is already making plans for expansion.

According to Paul Chodkowski, administrator for 100,000-square-foot St. Anthony’s hospital, patient numbers increased dramatically after the hospital opened on Dec. 7.

“We opened with a full 24-7 trauma service and as a result we received almost all of the ski injuries that occurred during the holiday season,” Chodkowski said. “Our volumes exceeded our projections in terms of inpatient admissions ” and in fact, during the holiday weekends we actually reached inpatient capacity several times.”

Chodkowski said that, while the Centura-owned hospital was actually designed with expansion in mind, thanks to these kinds of numbers, it’s all going to be happening much sooner than expected.

Immediate plans for the next 12 months include utilizing 11,000 square feet of existing shelved storage area and converting it into space for additional inpatient beds.

Within a 24-month time frame, St. Anthony’s is looking at expanding space in their birthing center, as well as adding digital mammography and echocardiography services.

Labs for nuclear medicine studies and sleep dysfunction may also possibly be in the works.

As far as emergency room services are concerned, Chodkowski said that things have been running smoothly, thanks to being perhaps a little over-prepared.

“If anything, we overbuilt the ER,” he admitted. “We doubled the ER capacity from our prior site to our new hospital.” This successful planning has so far enabled private room access for all ER patients.

Chodkowski said that the biggest surprise for the hospital staff hasn’t been the numbers, but rather the types of health care being sought by patients.

“Our major activity centers on orthopedic injuries, but we’ve seen quite a large number of admissions for general acute and chronic issues, including pulmonary and cardiac care ” and we’ve been surprised at the number of pediatric issues,” Chodkowski said. “These levels of activity are higher than expected.”

Chodkowski attributes this increase in admissions to the large number of patients who were formerly going to Denver to seek treatment for these specific health care issues.

A new hospital often means new medical office facilities as well, and St. Anthony’s is no exception. This July, a new 82,000 square foot medical office building will open next door to the hospital, practically guaranteeing an influx of medical specialists to the community. In fact, Chodkowski said that a large number of medical specialists have already expressed interest in establishing practices there.

While St. Anthony’s will be expanding its number of specialists, other facilities in the area will remain focused on family practice, allowing the hospital to take on the bulk of critical care and specialty cases. Such is the case with High Country Health Care, a physician-owned medical facility with locations in Dillon, Frisco, South Park and Breckenridge.

But the major upgrade for High Country Health Care will come this summer, when five of their six clinics will move into significantly larger spaces, enabling them to expand both services and operational hours.

For medical facility administrators like Dennis Flint, CEO of High Country Health Care, forecasting patient load can be a tightrope walk between pressing need and financial stability.

“The number of cases dictates who we add to our staff,” said Flint. “But it’s a delicate balancing act to determine what we need to add and what we’re forecasting for patient load. You do have to roll the dice a little bit. The trick is to be able to predict where that need is going to happen.”

In the High Country, some impending issues have become more predictable than others. “We do know there’s going to be an aging of the counties,” said Flint. “And with an aging population comes a need for sub-specialists in areas like geriatrics, cardiology and internal medicine.”

In mid-2005, a group of Summit County medical professionals, administrators and service agency representatives formed a new coalition to help establish priorities in medical services over the next 15 years.

Summit Health Care 2020 was created to begin a dialogue, reinforced by surveys and studies, to assess future health care needs for Summit County. To facilitate its findings, the organization is utilizing a nationally-known comprehensive community health needs assessment process, Mobilizing for Action Through Planning and Process (MAPP).

“Our goal is to develop over the next 12 months a comprehensive assessment of the current capabilities of the health delivery system in Summit and identify the top priorities of the future needs of our community, looking to the year 2020,” said Chodkowski.

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