Steamboat Springs hospital and orthopedic surgeons announce joint venture
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Announcing a 50-50 partnership, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute will open a new orthopedic ambulatory surgery center at the end of the year in the old Sports Authority building.
The center will be geared toward pre-scheduled outpatient surgeries for residents, while the hospital will continue to perform the majority of trauma surgeries that come through the emergency room, as well as surgeries that require additional care and overnight stays.
The new surgery center — for which a name is still in the works — will occupy approximately 8,000 square feet on the first floor of the old Sports Authority building. The entire building is under lease by Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute, which will renovate the second floor for its clinic. The clinic is anticipated to open in the fall.
“We couldn’t be more excited to announce our new partnership with YVMC and UCHealth,” said surgeon and Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute partner Dr. Alexander Meininger in a news release. “This is the opportunity for efficient, cost-effective outpatient surgery that our community has been awaiting.”
The partnership is many years in the making and comes through negotiations that, at times, appeared unworkable.
The medical center initially wanted to go the track of a hospital outpatient department, while the local orthopedic surgeons — along with some vocal members of the community — wanted to go the route of an ambulatory surgery center.
The difference is significant in the charging of facility fees and the need for the outpatient department to absorb the overhead of an entire hospital.
It also did not give the surgeons the role they wanted in terms of management and decision-making.
But over the past three months of conversations, the medical center “switched gears” under new leadership, and “We were able to meet on certain terms with the same goal in mind,” said Yampa Valley Medical Center Interim President Soniya Fidler.
The merger of the Steamboat Orthopaedic Associates and the Orthopaedics of Steamboat Springs in 2018 into Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute made negotiations significantly easier, Fidler said, with the nine surgeons able to speak as a unified group.
“SOSI (Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute) represents years of determination to provide patients with a unified orthopedic group,” said surgeon and Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute partner Dr. Andreas Sauerbrey in a news release. “Now, along with UCHealth, we’re looking forward to a new surgical experience for patients. Our new location in the Sports Authority building combines clinical care and a surgical center. We are proud of what our collaboration with our colleagues has been able to accomplish thus far.”
Since then, the hospital essentially hit the reset button and, according to both parties, the dialogue has gone very well. Although it’s “been a long road,” Fidler described the process as “very smooth,” while hospital Interim CEO Dr. Tom Downes described it as “a pleasure.”
And the common goal, said Downes, is to offer high quality care, ease of access for local patients and competitive prices. Some insurance carriers prefer to refer their patients to a surgery center over a hospital, Downes said, which will ideally keep more patients in the valley. “We want to make it as easy as possible for patients to get in and out with the best quality care and get home as soon as possible,” he said.
The surgery center model “allows us to have competitive costs compared to other surgery centers and prevent locals from having to drive to the Front Range or Summit County,” said Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute spokesman and surgeon Patrick Johnston. “It should bring cost savings to health care for local patients.” Though adding patients always need to check with their insurers to get an accurate quote for any procedure.
The decision on whether the surgery center or the hospital is the most appropriate venue for a surgery will be made by the patients and their physicians, Fidler said.
It also benefits public and private entities that are self-insured, Johnston noted, making it easier for their employees to stay in Steamboat for surgeries.
With the decision-making split between the two groups, Johnston said it will “help us play a more active role in patient care.”
Addressing an earlier point of contention when the medical center began to advertise for outside surgeons, Downes said they aren’t looking to hire anyone else, and if surgeons with additional specialties are added in the future, Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute will do the hiring.
For now, the focus will be on orthopedics, though Johnston said that could evolve down the road.
“The physicians of SOSI are excited about providing the model of care the community requested, and we think the model that will allow us to compete, and deliver the best possible care,” Johnston said. “We are very grateful to Soniya and Tom for the time and energy they’ve put into making the partnership work, and supporting local physicians. And we are grateful to the community for being involved with their local health care and requesting an ASC.”
The center is currently in the design phase, Fidler said, and they will soon be submitting plans to the city and begin the permitting process. “Ideally construction will start this spring,” she said, and can continue without weather restraints inside the existing structure.
“We’re working together to deliver an excellent patient experience,” said Fidler. “By combining this specialized team of providers, as well as YVMC’s skilled operating room staff, patients can continue to receive the very best orthopedic care, close to home.”
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