Yampa Valley Medical Center honored as 2014 Navigator Awards’ Business of the Year | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley Medical Center honored as 2014 Navigator Awards’ Business of the Year

Yampa Valley Medical Center was awarded the 2014 Navigator Award for Business of the Year.
John F. Russell

If you go

The Navigator Awards are presented by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and the Steamboat Pilot & Today during the Chamber's 107th annual meeting. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Strings Music Pavilion.

Tickets for the event are on sale at http://www.steamboatchamber.com/navigator. The cost is $70 for general admission, $90 for reserved seating and $1,200 for front row VIP tables for 10 people.

— Like they did in 1914, local hospital leaders continue to plan for the future.

On Tuesday, Yampa Valley Medical Center CEO Frank May sat in the lobby of what once was the Doak Walker Care Center, a unit at the hospital that cared for the elderly and those rehabbing from accidents or surgeries. YVMC since has handed off those services to Casey’s Pond Senior Living, and a new building was constructed, leaving the hospital with room to grow.

“It’s great to have 26,000 square feet to have a blank slate with and develop the infrastructure needs for the future,” May said.

As YVMC develops plans for how to use the space, the community is celebrating the hospital’s 100th year in Steamboat Springs. On Friday evening, YVMC will be honored as the Business of the Year during the 2014 Navigator Awards ceremony at the Strings Music Pavilion.

“I’m very proud,” May said. “I know our staff is proud of this.”

Today, YVMC employs more than 500 people, making it one of the top employers in Routt County. Doctors now use robots to help them with surgeries, and women have access to a full-service breast imaging center.

And the hospital has come a long way in 100 years.

Dr. Frederick E. Willett, along with four other local doctors, made the case for creating a hospital in the Dec. 5, 1913, issue of the Routt County Sentinel newspaper.

“Progress has always been assisted in Steamboat Springs and Routt County by our citizens, and in only this one thing do we believe we have not kept up with the world. When such a crying need exists as the present need for a hospital, we firmly believe that the well-known liberality of our people will step forward, as it has done many times before, and supply this deficiency.”

The Steamboat Pilot campaigned for the hospital project.

“With the many wonderful mineral springs that abound in this locality, there is no reason why Steamboat Springs should not have the largest, best equipped and most modern sanitarium of its kind in the West, and for that reason it behooves every citizen to put his shoulder to the wheel and boost for this splendid project,” the newspaper stated.

In April 1914, the hospital opened in what was known as the Payne Building on Sixth Street. It could treat 15 patients and featured a training school for nurses, a sterile operating room and X-ray machine. The hospital pledged to treat every disease, except those that were contagious. The first patient underwent surgery for “ear trouble.”

The hospital moved twice before Dr. Willett advocated that the hospital be handed over to a nonprofit organization.

“In 1946, he gave his blessing to the nonprofit organization that still is in existence,” said Christine McKelvie, who is working on a book about the hospital’s history. “He was the largest financial supporter of the fund drive to build a new hospital. A modern hospital was needed. He saw the need.”

The new hospital, named Routt Memorial Hospital, was located on Spruce Street for 49 years before construction of the Yampa Valley Medical Center was completed in 1999.

Leaders at YVMC continue to recognize the importance of meeting the needs of the community the hospital serves.

“To have the opportunity for quality health care in the Yampa Valley, it’s one of the most important things we can have,” said Tony Connell, who has served on YVMC’s board for nine years. “When people think about where they live, health care ranks right up there for why they live someplace.”

May said it is a goal to have YVMC perform in the top 90th percentile of the standards used to measure safety and quality of care at 2,000 hospitals.

This year, YVMC again was recognized as being in the top 5 percent in the nation for patient safety. The hospital also received the Outstanding Patient Experience Award, putting them in the top 15 percent of U.S. hospitals.

Planning for the future

With the rising costs of health care nationwide, YVMC leaders recognize that there will be major challenges ahead.

“Hospitals, in particular, are incredibly complex organizations,” May said.

May said the costs to take care of people are not sustainable for the health care system.

“I can’t pretend to tell you what it will look like five years from now, but if you listen to some of the futurists, it’s going to look a lot different than it does now,” May said.

Hospitals will have to do a better job of providing resources with the goal of keeping people from getting sick, May said.

May and Connell foresee hospitals forming more partnerships with health care providers, similar to what YVMC has done with the Mayo Clinic. In March, YVMC announced the partnership that gives physicians here the ability to consult with thousands of the clinic’s specialists across the country.

May said the new partnership will help patients here receive better-quality care and, in some cases, make it so that patients who previously had to travel long distances to see specialists can get the care they need more easily here in the Yampa Valley.

Dr. Willett and other local medical providers understood the importance of this 100 years ago when they advocated for creating a hospital.

“The added expense affects more than the patient, and all this could, we believe, be remedied by having at home an institution ready to serve such afflicted ones,” they wrote.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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