Hospital emergency department to undergo $10M renovation
Large-scale project will add over 2,500 square feet to emergency center, along with new private patient rooms
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A major renovation to the emergency department at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center is scheduled to begin next spring, with completion eyed for early summer 2021, according to hospital officials.
The project, which will add significant space and increased patient privacy, will be constructed in three phases, so patient care is able to continue uninterrupted.
The upgrades are something the medical center has been working toward for several years, said Soniya Fidler, president of the hospital.
“We’re excited to now have the ability to move forward,” Fidler said Tuesday.
While the total cost of the renovation project won’t be known until final design and construction plans are complete, Fidler anticipates the total investment in the project to be more than $10 million.
The renovation will be funded in part from the strategic capital commitments UCHealth made to the medical center when the two organizations joined in 2017, as well as philanthropic efforts from the Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation, according to officials.
At the time of the merger, UCHealth’s total commitment for capital projects was $50 million. While that fund will provide the majority of the money, all funds currently held by the Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation designated for the emergency department will be utilized during the project, be it toward the overall cost of the renovation or on a specific need within the emergency department, said UCHealth Communications Specialist Lindsey Reznicek.
The renovation will emphasize more privacy for patients, with plans for 14 private treatment rooms. The location of the emergency department’s entrance will remain the same.
Adding about 2,500 square feet, the new 10,206-square-foot department will have patient rooms laid out in a “race track fashion,” according to Debbie Kennedy, registered nurse and the medical center’s emergency department manager.
The rooms will surround the providers, Kennedy said, and allow for an improved workflow for both patients and providers; it will allow the team of care providers in the middle to easily keep watch on every room.
Another key aspect is a new design to facilitate bringing a wide variety of specialists and services to the patient in a more efficient setting, said Dr. David Wilkinson, emergency medicine physician and medical director of the emergency department.
An effective emergency room requires much more than a doctor, a nurse and medical equipment, Wilkinson said, adding that, “It takes a comprehensive team.”
Whether a patient requires a cardiologist, a respiratory specialist, an orthopedic surgeon, a telestroke consult or mental health care, Wilkinson said the new design of the emergency department will better address the complex process of meeting those varied needs.
“We want to be an unparalleled emergency medical resources for Northwest Colorado,” he said.
The department will also feature a decontamination room; dedicated physical therapy space; physician and staff work stations and break areas; separate walk-in and ambulance vestibules; and direct access to the main hospital for patients and guests.
The two private behavioral health “safe rooms” will stay in their current location but will be upgraded to provide more advanced care in a secure environment.
In 2018, the Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation contributed $150,000 toward the construction of the two safe rooms in the emergency department.
Fidler said, while the opening of the Steamboat Emergency Center in 2017 has “absolutely” had an impact on the emergency department in terms of volume, the renovation has been in works prior to its launch or that of other urgent care facilities in the area.
“What we provide is a different level of care and (is) more comprehensive,” she said.
The renovation isn’t a reaction to increased competition, she said. The department is vital as the first stop for patients in determining what “downstream” care may be needed next, according to Fidler, whether that be hospitalization, surgery or a flight to Denver.
Wilkinson described the emergency department as different from other emergency or urgent care providers in the community. “We are a comprehensive resource,” he explained, and the department looks to take care of anyone regardless of their financial or medical situation.
Fidler said the design process took into account the uniqueness of the needs of a mountain resort town, as well as the seasonality of traffic through the emergency department doors. A bigger snow year typically means more emergency room visits, Reznicek noted. That seasonality also impacts staffing, Wilkinson said.
Construction will also be scheduled to accommodate the peak seasons of winter and summer.
Through an intensive design process, Wilkinson said they gathered input from nurses, physicians and other aspects of emergency department operations, as well as toured other facilities.
CBRE | Heery, headquartered in Atlanta, was hired as the project’s design firm. Fidler said the hospital has also been working with Haselden Construction, based out of Centennial, during the pre-construction phase but has not yet finalized the decision on a general contractor for the project.
Fidler said the hospital also went through “mock up” exercises to see exactly how the new design would work and “know that every detail is accounted for.”
The first phase of construction is slated to begin next spring with completion in November. The project is currently in the process of being reviewed by the Steamboat Planning and Community Development Department.
The hospital will retain its Level III trauma center status throughout the construction.
In 2018, the hospital’s emergency room saw 8,530 patients. For the first half of 2019, the average wait time was six minutes.
“This renovation will bring our emergency facilities on par with the tremendous level of care delivered by our dedicated physicians and staff,” Fidler said. “The patient experience looks different now compared to when the current emergency department was built in 1999.
“It’s important to continually reinvest in our facilities to ensure they’re meeting the needs and expectations of our patients.”
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