Hospital seeking planning approval for larger emergency department |

Hospital seeking planning approval for larger emergency department

Officials say $10 million renovation will increase space, patient privacy

Artist's rendering of the walk-in entrance of the proposed UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center renovation.
Courtesy UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 5:24 p.m.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center is working through development approvals for a planned renovation to the emergency department expected to start next year and be completed in 2021.

The renovation will expand space within the Emergency Department from about 8,000 to about 10,000 square feet. While the hospital will have the same number of beds in the department, those beds will be in larger rooms with improved flow, according to Soniya Fidler, president of the hospital.

The project is currently working through the city’s planning and development approval process. The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission unanimously approved an application for a conditional use permit on Thursday. It’ll go before Steamboat Springs City Council Nov. 19.  

Internal projects to prepare for the renovation will start in February, Fidler said.

“Our target is to finish around late spring or early summer 2021,” she said. “Of course, being a 24/7 operation, the care that we provide today, which is our high-quality patient experience care, will continue at all times throughout the entire project.”

Fidler estimates the renovation will cost about $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.

The renovation will create larger patient rooms and change the layout of the facility, arranging patient rooms in a “racetrack” with patient rooms surrounding medical staff’s stations in the center.

According to documents presented to the Planning Commission, the building will include nine general treatment rooms, two behavioral health rooms, two trauma rooms, a larger treatment room and an isolation room. These rooms are planned to be larger than the existing patient rooms and in a more efficient layout.

David Wilkinson, medical director of emergency care and an emergency physician, said the emergency department is frequently a patient’s first entry to the hospital, whether they later are treated in the patient care unit or in surgery, so “there is a flow” between the emergency room and other departments.

“What this allows us to do is to take some of these major trauma and medical rooms and size them appropriately for what has to be done as those occurrences take place,” he said. “In those events, we often would have three physicians in a single room with half a dozen nurses and respiratory therapy, and it starts to be space critical, so that you can function in an effective fashion. …We’re actually not increasing the number of beds that we’re going to have. We’re making those beds a better place to take care of our patients.”

The renovation will also create separate entrances for patients walking in and those arriving by ambulance. Outside of treatment facilities, the renovation includes rooms for decontamination, more storage and preparation facilities, an on-call room and a skier staging area.

Yes, a skier staging area. This will be used specifically to get sick and injured skiers and riders and their families from mountain-ready to hospital-ready.

Wilkinson said when the hospital was designed, it was confined by financial consideration at the time, and “if anything, the emergency department was a little underdeveloped.” At the same time, he said the hospital is providing more preventative care for patients. He said this renovation addresses this, and patient’s expectations of what their experience will be.

He added that the new facility will better support teams of specialists and telehealth, care that makes use of virtual components.

The hospital’s outpatient pharmacy and cardio-pulmonary programs will be moved to make way for the renovations. Phase I construction is planned to kick off in February 2020 and includes these relocations and replacement of the roof. The hospital and the emergency room will remain open and treating patients throughout the project.

Fidler said medical and nursing staff worked with design and construction teams to create a plan that will allow the hospital to continue providing emergency care.

Fidler said she was excited to be able to invest in the hospital’s facilities to continue to “deliver an excellent patient experience” in a new environment that will take Yampa Valley Medical Center into the future.

Reporter Kari Harden contributed to this story.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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