YVMC marks 5 years

Hospital celebrates with open house

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Within about 10 minutes, Pat, a computerized emergency care mannequin at Yampa Valley Medical Center, had a heart attack, a seizure and several electric shocks. In between episodes, visitors probed Pat's air passages and felt its chest expand and contract.

Used to train hospital workers and emergency personnel, Pat was a favorite feature at an open house Saturday celebrating the hospital's fifth anniversary and its development as a major source of medical and emergency care in Routt County and Northwest Colorado.

"We just want to be sure the community joins us in celebrating the capabilities we have," hospital CEO Karl Gills said.

Although it's in a rural part of the state, YVMC -- with every update, new service and new, specialized staff member -- increasingly has the capabilities of a big-city hospital, Gills said, noting that YVMC is able to treat about 90 percent of its patients' illnesses and injuries.

"Most things can be taken care of here," he said. "That's a much higher percentage than (hospitals) in surrounding communities."

In addition to a new spine center and sleep lab center, which tests for and treats sleep disorders, the hospital has purchased a new CAT scanner and pictorial archiving system, which converts X-rays and other images to digital format for computer storage.

The hospital also has enlarged its lab and obtained a new analyzer capable of testing thyroid functions, fertility and other conditions. Patients once had to drive to the Front Range for such testing.

Overall, the hospital is able to do 92 percent of testing in0house and has started doing lab work for area physicians, who previously sent most tests to Denver.

"We like to keep as much in-house as possible for faster turn-around time for patients," lab manager Mary Poskus said.

A big advantage of having a highly capable hospital is that it attracts and supports physicians, Gills said.

New additions to the staff include back surgeon Henry Fabian, who recently relocated his practice from Cleveland, and Stacy Childs, a urologist who has helped expand the hospital's urology services.

"We're seeing more physicians move to the community bringing capabilities with them that we didn't have before," Gills said.

For emergency conditions that YVMC can't treat, the hospital is able to transport patients to larger hospitals with the Yampa Valley Air Ambulance, a hospital-based flight service that took off in 2001.

The hospital, which leases an airplane and pilot from Mountain Flight Service Inc., always has a paramedic and nurse ready to stabilize and accompany patients on flights to hospitals in Fort Collins, Denver and Grand Junction.

The service is important, said Dave Linner, program director for the flight program, because Routt County is so isolated from some advanced medical care. The 40-minute flight to a Front Range hospital often can avert death or more serious injury, especially when dealing with time-sensitive conditions such as heart attacks or head injuries.

Of the more than 1,000 flights so far, about 73 percent have been from YVMC, and the remaining have been from hospitals in Craig, Aspen, Leadville and Rollins, Wyo., Linner said.

Immersed in an industry with constant technological and medical advances, YVMC always is looking ahead to future needs and goals.

The hospital is feeling space pressures and is ahead of activity projections made when it was designed and built, Gills said, adding that it plans to conduct studies in 2005 targeting needs and areas for possible growth.

YVMC is in the midst of a two-year technological upgrade that will computerize most clinical documents into information accessible from anywhere in the hospital, Gills said.

It also is in the process of expanding chemotherapy treatment, which should be complete in 2005, he said.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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