Medical center gets a face-lift

Oak Creek's 40-year-old facility is repainted, renovated and ready for business

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When patrons walk in the door of the South Routt Medical Center in Oak Creek, they can't help but notice the building's new look, receptionist Donna Sullivan said.

"They really notice how much brighter it is, how much cleaner it looks," Sullivan said. "Since we had it painted, it just looks cleaner, it just looks bigger, and it just looks brighter."

Thanks to donated money and time, as well as grants, the 40-plus-year-old building has been updated.

There is fresh paint on the walls, making the inside cream and white instead of the brown, orange and yellow color scheme it used to have. There are new lights in the ceilings, a new tile floor and a new roof overhead.

For the past two years, members of the South Routt Medical Center Board have worked to turn donated money and time into improvements to the building. The idea to give the center a new look came years ago, when a Denver doctor stopped in for the day.

"His expression was, 'Oh my. This is dated to the '60s,'" said Linda Long, president of the South Routt Medical Center Board. "We just realized we needed to update the building after 40 years."

Some renovation work remains, but the new look is a reminder to the community that South Routt's only medical center is open and ready for business.

The center dates back to the early 1960s, when members of the Silver Spruce Club in Oak Creek discussed the need for a doctor in the area. In the 1920s, when Oak Creek mines were booming and population was high, the town had two hospitals, but those closed with the mines.

Donations of $1 to $1,000, as well as funds raised through raffles, dances and bake sales, helped construct the $29,000 center, Long said. The Sears-Roebuck Foundation worked with the community to design and build the center.

By March of 1964, a 10-member board had been put in place and the doors to the center opened.

Long remembered the day it opened -- she had just graduated from high school.

"Everybody was so proud that it was a modern building on Main Street in Oak Creek," Long said. "Everybody was excited. They thought this was really state of the art."

Then, the center was perfect for residents who didn't want to make the long drive to Steamboat Springs to get medical help. Today, it serves that same purpose.

The center especially is helpful to older patients or to parents of young children.

"They're very happy that we're here and we're close and they can get in that same day," Sullivan said. "The last thing you want to do is drive 40 or 50 minutes in a snowstorm with a kid with an earache."

The medical center serves people from Oak Creek, Yampa, Phippsburg, Toponas, McCoy, Stagecoach, and everywhere in between, as well as hunters and recreationalists who are visiting and need a fishhook removed from an ear or medicine for a sore throat, Sullivan said.

Since its opening days, the operation of the center has remained about the same. The South Routt Medical Center has a contract with the Steamboat Medical Center, which staffs the building and pays heat and electric bills. Grants from Yampa Valley Electric Association, the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and others, as well as donations from residents, help the center keep equipment and the building up to date.

Unlike many other hospitals, the community is the ultimate owner of the medical center, Long said. The community also is providing the long volunteer hours to keep the center going.

"It's just dedicated volunteers keeping it together with a lot of behind-the-scenes work," Long said.

The center's goal of serving the community and meeting the community's needs also has stayed the same, Long said.

In efforts to meet those goals, the center also is sending out a survey in late March to ask South Routt residents how they use or would like to use the center.

The survey also asks residents what free seminars on topics such as nutrition, yoga, skin cancer prevention, back pain and childhood immunizations they would like to see.

"That's what this survey is all about -- to try to see what we can do better to keep using the facility," Long said. "It's just a nice little facility that's owned by the community. We want to keep it that way."

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