Gunnison Valley Hospital

Upgrades Result in More Use of GVH


Demand for Local Hospital’s Services Rises in 2011

Thursday, February 9, 2012
Courtesy of Gunnison Country Times

Last year Gunnison County residents and visitors used more of their local health system services than in the previous year. Gunnison Valley health (GVH) leaders believe that is due largely to new equipment and expanded services.

In September of last year, the hospital opened a new wing, and area residents seem to be finding and using the relocated imaging and laboratory departments, said Randy Phelps, CEO of the county-owned health system.

The new Women’s Health Center, which offers bone density, ultrasound and breast cancer screenings, saw the most significant increase in use in 2011, as 553 more women had mamorgrams at GVH than the previous year. The increase in screenings is due to the addition of a new $260,000 Siemens MAMMOMAT Inspiration digital mammography machine, made possible in part, by a $100,000 donation from Tough Enough to Wear Pink.

The hospital’s Radiology and Imaging Department also acquired a new “short-bore” magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine and a new 16-slice CT machine. At year’s end, MRI services had increased 6 percent from 2010, while CT scans dropped by 25 percent. As part of the recent renovation, GVH’s mobile MRI was moved from the hospital parking lot, and all of the radiology and imaging services were relocated next door to the Emergency Department.
“The move increases patient convenience and privacy, and decreases diagnosis wait times,” said Radiology Department Medical Director Gareth Roberts. “The new equipment allows us to provide patients with some of the best imaging available in the state, right here at home.

“Our new CT machine is truly state of the art and is an important tool in diagnosing complex trauma and brain injuries.”

Roberts speculated that the decline in usage of the CT equipment may be the result of a shift in practice preferences by physicians to be more judicious with patient radiation exposure.

A partnership with Mayo Medical Laboratories allows the hospital lab to provide certain complex and seldom used tests for Gunnison-area patients. The lab runs more than 11,000 tests and year and volume in 2011 experienced a 1 percent increase from 2010 levels.

The hospital renovation also included a new office and exam space for visiting physician specialists and a new Cancer Care Center.

“Our goal was to provide patients with more privacy and personal attention, and from the feedback we’re getting, this seems to be working,” said Phelps.
Treatments at Gunnison Valley Health Cancer Care Center increased from 527 in 2010 to 658 in 2011.

“We expect this number to grow in 2012 now that Dr. Allan Miller has joined Dr. Eric Schmidt,” said oncology nurse Chuck Turner, “And we have expanded appointments with these medical oncologists to one day each week.”

As in past years, residents and visitors continued to need ambulance services for unexpected emergencies as well as hospital surgery and physical therapy services to treat injuries and illnesses. GVH’s Emergency Medical Services responded to 859 ambulance calls in 2011, a 10 percent increase from 2010. Emergency Room use increased at the same rate, totaling 5,351 visits in 2011.

Surgeries requiring overnight stays in the hospital increased by 11 percent in 2011. Physicians and medical staff performed a total of 951 overnight and day surgeries in 2011, and 45.5 percent of these were orthopedic-related. Physical therapy saw 612 patients in 2011, a 9 percent increase from 201, and the vast majority of these were also orthopedic-related.

Around 50 senior citizens reside in the nursing home and assisted living communities, which is about equal to 2010. Homecare and Hospice brought services into the homes of more than 180 area residents, who are mostly senior citizens. That was slightly lower than in 2010.

Hospital nurses and physicians helped bring 148 new lives into the county, an increase of 16 newborns from 2010.

“Although the year-end assessment isn’t complete,” said Phelps, “we expect to close out the year with a narrow, positive operating margin and are grateful for the support from our community. We are also thankful for the efforts of the Gunnison Valley Health Foundation for contributing $60,000 to the hospital in 2011 which helped fund Emergency Medical Services, our Medical Student Loan Program and the new Cancer Care Center.”

All in all, said Phelps, Gunnison County’s health system is becoming more robust.

“We’ve worked hard to cover our costs and to also incest in more treatment options, enhanced services and better facilities,” he said. “We look forward to doing our part to improve individual and community health and continue to live well together, without leaving the valley.”

GVH’s 300-plus-member staff works with 50 local and visiting specialists and local providers to provide primary and specialty care in hospital and outpatient settings. The hospital is one of the few rural hospitals in Colorado that does not receive county tax support for operations.

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