Gunnison Valley Hospital

Hospital Improvements

Hospital Upgrades Underway

Addition, remodel aimed at safety, privacy, efficiency
Will Shoemaker
Gunnison Country Times Staff Writer
re-printed with permission
Friday, September 10, 2010

The $6.2 million capital construction project now underway at Gunnison Valley Hospital (GVH) is just what the doctor ordered — paving the way to greater safety and privacy for patients and efficiency for staff.

That was the message delivered by hospital executives this past Thursday during a ground breaking celebration that including numerous local dignitaries, hospital staff and health system and foundation board members.

Construction of a new, 14,000-square-foot wing at the county-owned hospital has been underway since early August.

The addition — on the northeast corner of the existing building — will include a new laboratory, imaging center and patient registration area. The current lab and radiology department will move to that space, allowing for a 4,500-square-foot renovation to house a visiting physicians clinic and oncology clinic.

Specifically, the project will allow for twice the number of chemotherapy rooms, said GVH Chief of Staff Dr. Lauretta Garren.
Remodeling the existing space at the hospital will allow for visiting specialists — including cardiologists, pulmonologists, urologists and others — to have more space and greater privacy for patients, Garren added.

The construction project itself will cost $6.2 million, though the hospital recently sold about $7.5 million in bonds. The remainder is to pay off the note on a building in Crested Butte purchased a few years ago. An additional $2.3 million in new radiology equipment — including MRI, CT scan and digital mammography machines — will be installed once the project is completed.

“It means more detail, better diagnostic capability and faster scans,” GVH’s Chief Operating Officer Betsy Bair said of the new CT scanner.
Financing for the project was approved by both the local health system board of trustees and the County Commissioners in recent months.
The debt service and the lease of radiology equipment — which GVH will own after five years — is planned to be funded entirely through cash generated by the hospital in coming years.

Malte von Matthiessen, board member for the larger Gunnison Valley Health System, noted during the ground breaking ceremony that while the plan is to cover the project with revenues, GVH is still the only Western Slope, community owned, “critical access” hospital that doesn’t get tax support from area residents.

The project is planned to span 18 months and is aimed, first and foremost, at correcting a few noteworthy inadequacies.
For one, the imaging department will now be adjacent to the ER.

“Right now, we have to wheel (patients) down the hall to essentially another building,” said Tim Cashman, chief financial officer, in reference to, for example, X-rays. “There’s no patient privacy. This creates adjacency for privacy and expediency.”

GVH’s MRI machine is now located in a semi-trailer west of the hospital.
Moving the lab and radiology department, Cashman added, will help accomplish centralized registration for outpatients, who predominantly utilize those services.

The current hospital has undergone five or six additions since 1939, said Cashman. Most recently, the emergency department addition began in the late-’90s.

GVH CEO Randy Phelps believes the project will help attract doctors and improve the quality of health care locally. “This keeps us a viable industry in the community,” he said.

Neenan Company of Fort Collins is the design/build firm for the project. RLH Engineering of Windsor is the owners’ representative.
Phelps indicated last week that GVH is utilizing as much involvement by local subcontractors as possible.
So far, that’s included local firms conducting site work and forming concrete, Cashman noted.

“It’s highly preferential treatment, as long as it’s within budget,” he said. “(Neenan) sends us the list of bids for everything and the executive review team (at GVH) talks about it. As far as who makes the final call, it’s a collective decision.”

(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or

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