Steamboat Springs The community will have a chance to meet the man who will help shape the direction of health care for the Steamboat Springs area and maybe for the rest of northwest Colorado.
A reception for Karl Gills is being held today from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Yampa Valley Medical Center.
"I'm looking forward to meeting members of the community and becoming part of the community," said Gills, the new CEO of the Steamboat Springs Health Care Association.
Gills came from Greeley, where he ran a medical center before operating a multi-hospital system.
As for Steamboat, Gills admits it is advantageous moving into a new facility right away.
"With the new facility, there's a great opportunity for new services and to expand the ones we have," Gills said.
Specifically, Gills said the Level II nursery should expand. Level II care involves more specialized medical care for newborns.
"Many rural areas only have Level I nurseries," Gills said. "We can care for our infants here without going to Grand Junction or Denver."
The medical center also has Level III trauma care for infants that also serves families in rural northwest Colorado.
Gills said it was this level of medical care that brought him to Steamboat.
"It was the area and the job," Gills said. "It's a unique mountain community and a unique medical facility for such a rural area."
In fact, the committee that chose Gills for the job expects him to turn the Yampa Valley Medical Center into more of a regional hospital.
"One of the things we were excited about was he (Gills) was from a small town hospital in Greeley and helped it get bigger and expand to a regional center," said Bob Maddox, chairman of the Steamboat Springs Health Care Association board.
Maddox said the Yampa medical center has already seen a 60-percent increase in patients over the past four years.
"We wanted someone on board to handle that new pattern of growth," Maddox said.
A former colleague who worked with Gills for years in Greeley said his success can be attributed to caring for the health care system's No. 1 priority: patients.
"Karl has always provided leadership that puts the patient and the customer first, and I'd expect him to do the same there," said Gene Haffner, director of community relations at Greeley's medical center.
Gills, an avid skier who has been known to heli-ski in Canada, said he and his wife, Mary, are the lucky ones. Mary Gills, a neonatal and family practice nurse practitioner, will be joining her husband soon with horses in tow.
Gills said his wife is certain to take time off before looking for a job, because she's excited about spending the first summer in Steamboat with their horses. In fact, they already found a home with plenty of room for the horses.