‘Bursting at the seams for space,’ South Routt Medical looks to expand

Staff at South Routt Medical Center, pictured here, reports an increase in patients of roughly 300% since 2014. With a decrease in tax revenue as well, the medical center is hoping to secure congressionally directed funding to help complete a much needed expansion.
Katie Berning/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

South Routt Medical Center is turning to county officials to help secure congressionally directed funding for what hospital officials say is a much needed expansion. 

“South Routt Medical Center has seen roughly a 300% increase in patients since 2014,” said Ken Rogers, district manager of South Routt Medical Center. “We are bursting at the seams for space.” 

Routt County Commissioner Tim Redmond sent letters of support to Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse requesting a $2.3 million grant. Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel also sent letters of support. 

According to Rogers, South Routt Medical has seen an increase in patients due to the medical center keeping its doors open during COVID-19 and a migration away from Steamboat Springs to more affordable parts of Routt County. 

Commissioner Redmond’s letter outlined how the facility has the capacity to accommodate 2,000 to 2,800 patients per year, but serves more than 7,000 each year. At the height of the pandemic, the medical center saw over 11,300 patients. He noted the medical center cannot adequately serve the growing patient demand in surrounding rural communities.

Rogers said physical therapy services have doubled in size and capacity in recent years, and both the dental and medical offices have reached their capacity. He indicated the expansion is not only needed to provide necessary space for expanding departments, but also so the medical center can add new services as well. 

“We would love to be able to offer urgent care,” Rogers said. “We hope to have room to bring on services for specialty care such as women’s health. It would be great to have a space for an OB-GYN to operate out of a couple times a month.” 

According to Rogers, the medical center especially needs room in the event that it needs to bring in another provider. He said the goal for funding this expansion is not to burden taxpayers, hence the request for congressionally directed spending, in addition to searching for other funding avenues.

With an influx in patients and a decrease in tax revenue, staff at South Routt Medical has deemed this expansion essential. According to Rogers, at one point in time, 52% of the South Routt Medical Center’s revenue came from the Twentymile Mine. However, recent efforts to transition away from coal have decreased the amount of tax revenue the medical center can receive. 

Commissioner Redmond cited the sunsetting of the coal industry as a prime example of why South Routt Medical needs congressionally directed spending. He also touched on the fact that Routt County is projected to experience a 41.3% population increase by 2050, and much of the growth will be in the 85-plus age group, which will require more health care services. 

Rogers said the expansion remains in its preliminary stages. A master plan and feasibility study will paint a clearer picture of what construction might look like. With a limited amount of land, the medical center’s expansion will likely be upward, adding more floors to the building, as opposed to outward. 

South Routt Medical Center was built in the 1960s and last remodeled in 2013. 

Project proposals for congressionally directed spending continue to roll in as additional subcommittee submissions are made. The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider requests while writing the annual spending bill.

“Our office is now in the process of reviewing each request and will share the list of projects the office is submitting publicly soon,” a spokesperson for Sen. Bennet’s office said.

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