New era in health care…

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Construction of the Pikes Peak Regional Hospital is in the final stages for the Oct. 1 opening.

Health care history will be made when Teller County residents walk through the doors of their new 40,000-square-foot full-service hospital.
By 9 a.m. Oct. 1, the Pikes Peak Regional Hospital building will no longer teem with subcontractors, cleaning crews and touch-up painters.
Its surgical equipment will be sterilized. Its computer and medical systems fully tested, and its trendy waiting room chairs will be ready for patients.
After nearly eight years in the planning, the $25 million community centerpiece hospital atop a 20-acre campus is ready to go.
The 15-bed hospital, with space to expand up to 75 beds, will open with 54 employees, $6.3 million in medical equipment and furnishings, and a groundswell of community pride.
The facility will be managed by Nashville-based Brim Healthcare, which operates 40 similar rural and small community hospitals across the country.
All employees will have participated in two weeks of mock patient activities, designed to assure a smooth opening, said Harley Smith, the hospital’s CEO and Brim representative.
Most of the hospital’s staff has come from the immediate area – including 18 of the program’s 21 nurses. Many of them left jobs at Penrose and Memorial hospitals.
“It was just so much closer for them,” Smith said, adding that all medical personnel are required to live within a 30-minute commute.
So far, 27 physicians either have or plan to have credentials to work out of the new hospital. Among them are two general practitioners, an orthopedic surgeon, a cardiologist, a general surgeon who recently returned from Iraq and two Colorado Springs plastic surgeons. A women’s OB/GYN doctor also will be available on site one day a week.
And patients are already lining up.
“We’ve already got locals who have been waiting to get their elective surgeries done tell us that they’ll be in the first week or two we’re open to schedule,” Smith said.
Smith and Ron Ebersole, a chief operations officer for Brim Healthcare in Minneapolis, have helped outfit, staff and develop protocols for the new facility.
Brim is leasing the facility and will manage its operation, Ebersole said.
Located west of Highway 67 between Woodland Park and Divide, J.E. Dunn Construction was the project’s general contractor and Architectural Nexus of Salt Lake City was the architect.

More than a “Band-Aid”

The new medical team will have access to some of today’s leading medical equipment.
The radiology department had originally considered a traditional mammography screening X-ray machine, but soon realized more advanced FDA approved digital options would enable them to electronically send X-rays to Memorial Hospital’s radiology staff in Colorado Springs for reading.
“You don’t get radiologists to come to a small community like this. They’d need $400,000 to $500,000 a year,” Smith said, adding that the association eventually decided to spend $500,000 obtained from state grants to finance unbudgeted state- of-the-art laboratory, X-ray, surgical and electronic medical records upgrades.
The hospital’s emergency department is six rooms, including a trauma room and a negatively pressured decontamination area where patients with radiation or chemical exposure can be treated without contact with the main ER area.
“We also have overflow capabilities in case of a mass casualty event and have the ability to utilize the post-anesthesia care unit and the second-stage recovery unit, if necessary,” Ebersole said.
Both Brim executives emphasize the company’s focus on patient care.
The association’s business plan research showed that based on its service area, an average of seven or eight beds will be filled at any given time. They also determined that the hospital’s most frequent visitors would need orthopedic treatment.
“This area attracts a lot of people who like to rock-climb, hike, ski, take their mountain bikes, ATVs or motorcycles out for a ride. That means we get more than our share of accidents and falls,” he said, adding that the hospital’s 36,000 area residents, rather than tourists, would typically use the facility.

Finances in order

Curt Grina, president of the Pikes Peak Regional Medical Center Association and its fundraising entity the PPRMCA Foundation, spearheaded a volunteer effort to find a way to pay for the facility’s construction. He calls fundraising efforts “a pure grassroots project” and said he enjoyed the challenge.
“We were lucky,” he said. “Unlike large corporate hospital companies, we didn’t have to setting up a special tax district – and the government won’t be involved in running the hospital.”
Pikes Peak Regional Hospital Association is an 85 percent owner and Brim Healthcare, the management company that will run day-to-day operations, owns a 15 percent stake.
The project was financed, Grina said, by a $10.3 million conventional mortgage provided by Matrix Capital Bank of Denver, which was guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture. In addition, the USDA provided a $4 million direct loan. More than $4 million has been raised so far through donations and grants obtained by the association prior to groundbreaking, and at least $3.8 million in working capital was contributed by Brim Healthcare
As a result, Grina said, the hospital’s actual operation doesn’t have to depend on grants and fundraising to keep the doors open. He also said Brim will generate the necessary revenue through delivery of medical services and management to pay for overhead and maintenance.
But that’s just one aspect of the association’s financial plan.
The community group also owns enough property adjacent to the hospital to establish at least two lease revenue generators. They include a 20,000-square-foot medical office building and a 16,000-square-foot assisted living center. The office space is almost filled, Smith said, and a 24-bed assisted living center, owned by Heritage Healthcare, is scheduled to break ground in the coming weeks.
“We’ve already got Mountain View Medical Group, Prospect Home Care and Hospice and Nepenthe Durable Equipment leasing space. We expect tenants to begin moving in by November,” Grina said.

An economic driver

Smith said the hospital eventually could grow to 75 beds or more, depending on demand. At that point, staffing could rise to 110 employees, many of whom would live in Woodland Park or surrounding towns. In addition, he said, hospitals typically are considered “economic engines” in their communities.
So far, the hospital’s campus has attracted not only medical office users, but entirely new business. A ground breaking is already under way on a $3.5 million, 24-unit 16,000-square-foot assisted living community, operated by an affiliate of Heritage Healthcare. The operation is expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local community.
Judy Cloyd, director of operations, said the living center has attracted a healthy prospect list. She sees the location adjacent to the Pikes Peak Regional Hospital as a key for her residents, and expects the company’s employees will come almost exclusively from Teller County.
Prudential Colorado Real Estate broker Lenore Hotchkiss has lived in the Woodland Park area for many years and sees the hospital as an asset not only for current residents, but for those moving into the area. Hotchkiss said driving down Ute Pass to a Colorado Springs hospital has been a major concern.
“People are moving here because jobs are being created. We’re seeing both ends of the spectrum which is positively impacting the hospital. It’s very exciting,” she said.
Debbie Miller, president of the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce agrees.
“The economic impact will be multi-faceted and include salaries paid to local residents who live, shop and raise their families here, their sales and property taxes, as well as the ancillary jobs created by the hospital,” she said.
The Cripple Creek and Victor Mining Co., a major donor to the association’s fundraising efforts, employs nearly 400 workers at the Cresson Mine and plans to utilize the nearby medical center.
“They accept our employee health insurance – and that’s important. We’ll use it for pre-employment check-ups and drug testing,” said Jane Mannon, a spokeswoman for the company.
And even entrepreneurs entering the market are enthusiastic about adding a hospital to the economic base. Tim Leigh, owner of Hoff & Leigh Real Estate, plans to build a $7 million Hampton Inn & Suites hotel in Woodland Park as a part of the Downtown Development Authority’s planned central plaza. He also put the existing 60-room Country Inn under contract and hopes to bring much-needed meeting and hospitality venues to the community.
“It’s not that the hospital will fill up hotel rooms with friends and family of patients,” Leigh said. “What it does is speak volumes about the vision, vitality and resourcefulness of the leadership in Woodland Park and Teller County.”
Becky.Hurley@csbj.com