Nestled at 10,152 feet of elevation in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, St. Vincent Hospital is a 25 bed Critical Access Hospital serving the rural area of Lake County and North America’s highest city of Leadville, Colorado.
The mission of St. Vincent General Hospital is to provide the best possible continuum of healthcare services to meet the health needs of persons in Lake County and surrounding areas. These services will be provided in a quality, cost-effective and accessible basis, and achieve a balance between community needs and available resources. We will reflect the caring and noble nature of this mission in all that we do.
***An update regarding the closure of St. Vincent Hospital. From St. Vincent Hospital Board Secretary, Dennis Johnson.
I know rumors are circulating about the hospital, so here is an update.
We hope to keep the emergency room open until March 31, or longer, until we can obtain funding and/or find a partner to keep emergency medical services available without interruption. This can only occur as long as we have the money and are able to provide adequate staff, and as long as we have heat in the building. The boiler has stopped twice since Thanksgiving — once for several hours. Last week, a number of nurses gave notice that they had accepted employment elsewhere, so staffing has now become a problem. There was some concern that we might have to close the emergency room at the end of this month due to staffing concerns, but it now looks like we will be able to go past that date. Hospital management is making every effort to retain nurses or to find them elsewhere. While we hope that we can keep emergency services going forward, everyone should be aware that this could change quickly. If we can’t run the emergency room safely with adequate staff, we will close it. And if we are unable to heat the building on a long term basis, we will have to close.
We have three major organizations who are willing to talk to us about coming to Lake County — Centura, Swedish and Denver Health. We are inviting them to make a presentation about what they might do here and how we can work with them. This will probably take place before Christmas. At this point, neither organization has said they definitely are willing to come here, but they are willing to take a serious look at the situation, so that is encouraging.
There was a meeting last week with representatives of the hospital and a number of people, including representatives of the BOCC, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Dougherty Mortgage Company, and Centura. The hospital had been asking for financial assistance from each of these organizations for a long time without success. However, this was the first time all of us were in the same room together and it made a difference, particularly since we are in a crisis situation. While there were no firm agreements or commitments, it appears that real money might be available for hospital services if we can come up with a workable plan. This may depend on whether Centura or Denver Health decide they want to come here and, if so, whether the organizations with money (USDA and Dougherty) believe the plan is financially feasible. The good news is that these organizations seem to be willing to work hard to find a solution, so there is hope.
In the short term, we have to take care of the ambulance and possibly fix the emergency room. No final decision has been made about whether the ambulance will stay at the hospital or be moved to the County or the Fire Department. However, yesterday the county commissioners approved a resolution saying that they will subsidize the hospital for its losses in running the ambulance. This should increase the possibility that an ambulance service will continue in Lake County, regardless of the final structure.
We are attempting to get funds to replace the heating system in a small part of the building that will allow us to run the emergency department. As you might recall, we have a $1 million DOLA matching grant to fix the heat in the whole building, but we don’t have the $ 1 million to match it. We are now asking DOLA to split that grant in half so that we have can have a $500,000 matching grant to fix the smaller part of the building. The county commissioners voted yesterday to contribute $250,000 to this project, meaning that we need another $250,000 if DOLA agrees to modify the grant. The hospital can probably come up with the other $250,000 by selling property in Buena Vista. Years ago, the hospital sold a small clinic in BV on contract. We had a balloon payment of about $340,000 due this year, but it was not paid. We started foreclosure proceedings which will end on January 28. We have been offered about $250,000 cash for the property, although there is no guarantee at this point that the buyer actually has the cash in hand. This amount is less than we are owed and quite a bit below fair market value, so ordinarily we would not accept this. Our fiduciary duty requires us to try to sell for fair market value in most circumstances. However, if DOLA modifies our grant to allow us to fix part of the heating system, we believe this would be an extraordinary situation which could allow us to accept that offer of $250,000 and fix the heating system, without breaching our fiduciary duty. Of course, we might not do this if Centura or Denver Health say they want to build a new facility. We don’t plan to spend a million dollars fixing the building unless someone will use it. On the basis of these considerations, the board voted to decline the offer of $250,000 on the property for now. If DOLA modifies the grant, and if it looks like somebody wants to use our facility for the emergency room, we can accept the offer immediately. Although there is no guarantee, we believe the offer will probably remain open for a while because it was made by the tenant who is currently in the building and he does not want to move his business.
Many hospital services have been discontinued and many will end in January. We have decided for now to try to keep the medical clinic open beyond its scheduled closure date, along with the emergency department.
Quorum’s contract with the hospital goes until September 15. The hospital board has asked Quorum to voluntarily reduce the scope of its contract with the hospital and the fees it is charging. Our intent is to keep Joyce Beck and Ric Eisenring working at the hospital for the foreseeable future, but to eliminate all but the most essential consulting services we receive from Quorum. We expect a response from Quorum fairly soon.
You may have read about the new health care advisory committee. This is a group of 11 citizens, health care providers, and local government employees who are meeting to discuss and share ideas and coordinate plans. It has no decision making authority, but really serves as a forum for exchanging ideas.
I don’t intend to bother you with regular emails, nor do I intend to write a newsletter about everything that is going on with the hospital. Rather, you will hear from me if major things occur that are not reported in the paper, or if I believe that significant inaccurate information is being circulated, either by the newspaper or through rumors. Remember, I said I would address significant misinformation, not all inaccurate information. That’s always going around town, as we all know.
That’s it for now. Thanks for your interest in the hospital.