Physicians say county needs hospital without question |

Physicians say county needs hospital without question

SUMMIT COUNTY – Local doctors say they’d like to see more patients getting treatment in Summit County and fewer transported to Vail or Denver. The need for a hospital, they agree, is unquestionable.

County commissioners have spent the last year negotiating with Denver-based St. Anthony’s to build a hospital on county land just outside Frisco. St. Anthony’s also owns and operates Summit Medical Center. In addition to a hospital, the county commissioners want to see a medical office building and community care clinic.

Some doctors say it’s an idea whose time has come and should have come to fruition long before now.

“I think it’s an issue of our community taking care of our own people,” said Dr. Jim Bachman. “I’ve been here 20 years. As this community evolves, we need to look at facilities that more appropriately take care of our needs. People are getting older. We need to look more at what kind of health care needs exist past the age of 60. We don’t have a nursing home, a cardiologist or a hospital. As we look at where our demographics are going, it’s clear our medical facilities are not ready.”

The need for a hospital isn’t justified solely by demographics, said obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Julie Gelman, but population. “The majority of communities with more than 25,000 permanent population have a hospital,” she said.

As more people make Summit County their year-round home, the demand for health services grows. St. Anthony’s responded to some of that need in 1997 when it opened the Birth Center at Summit Medical Center. Since then, 1,340 babies have been born in Summit County.

“We are doing over 300 births a year,” Gelman said. “Certainly, the benefits of having a hospital or bigger facility would be more rooms, both for postpartum – separate from our post-operative patients – and for children. We don’t admit any pediatric patients. If we had a hospital with, say, 30 beds, we would certainly be able to do more.”

But along with a hospital, some of the county’s doctors say a larger medical office building also would allow them to serve a greater number of people.

“I’m one of those people who’s frustrated with the process,” said Dr. Peter Janes, an orthopedic surgeon at Frisco’s Vail/Summit Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. “I moved my family over here seven years ago from Eagle County with an expressed interest to concentrate on our orthopedics in Summit County in the office we have here. We wanted more to happen here than has happened to date.

“We’re kind of landlocked here,” said Janes, whose office is located in the Summit Vista Professional Building adjacent to Summit Medical Center. “We do a great deal of sophisticated orthopedics here, but we can’t do everything with the small facility we have.”

Janes said he and his fellow doctors are “so frustrated with this process stalling that we’re ready to go ahead with a medical office building – hospital or not.”

But, he added, “Land is still the issue for us.”

Janes said the lack of facilities leaves Summit County doctors at a disadvantage. The Vail Valley Medical Center (VVMC) operates base-area clinics at Breckenridge and Keystone, and Janes said many of those patients pass right by the offices of local doctors to Eagle County.

“It hurts me that people have to leave the county, that another hospital system is controlling where Summit County residents have their treatment,” he said.

Dr. Craig “Doc P.J.” Perrinjaquet, who is affiliated with the Breckenridge office of the High Country Health Care organization, agreed with Janes. Many patients, he said, “bypass equally (qualified), if not better-qualified, physicians in their own county,” for treatment in Vail.

Nevertheless, VVMC does provide many benefits to Summit County. At its Summit County facilities, it employs 80 staff members. More than 20 physicians work at VVMC facilities located in Summit County. And the organization plans to invest $60 million in improvements throughout its system during the next five years, according to VVMC president Clifford Eldredge.

“We are extremely dedicated to providing both Summit County and the Central Rockies with superior health care,” Eldredge wrote in a February 2001 letter to the Summit County commissioners. “We are most interested in the future planning for our area’s health care.”

Without significantly expanded local services, however, patients will continue to go outside the county for many types of treatment, the doctors agreed.

“The bottom line is, we really need better medical care for the residents of Summit County,” Eldredge said. “I think the numbers are here.”

Bachman agreed.

“To me, it’s not Summit versus Vail,” he said. “Whether it’s Vail or Denver, the goal is to have patients just not have to leave the county.”


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

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