Yampa Valley Medical Center could merge with UCHealth hospital system
Steamboat Springs — Yampa Valley Medical Center officials announced Wednesday the hospital was pursuing a merger with the UCHealth hospital system.
The nationally recognized Front Range-based system includes Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, Poudre Valley Hospital, Medical Center of the Rockies, UCHealth Medical Group, Broomfield Hospital, Grandview Hospital and University of Colorado Hospital.
If an agreement is reached, YVMC employees would become employees of UCHealth, and the two organizations would consolidate finances, according to hospital officials.
The hospital now begins a period of negotiations, or due diligence, with UCHealth expected to take several months.
Hospital CEO Frank May said the proposed partnership was not a sale of the nonprofit YVMC, though he declined to answer whether the partnership would involve a lump sum of financial support from UCHealth if and when the merger is finalized.
“This is not a sale,” May said, “I can’t get into the financial details, but there will be some financial support.”
YVMC in July announced its intent to seek out a Front Range hospital partner as part of its strategic plan, though at the time hospital officials said the arrangement would not be monetary and would involve an agreement to refer patients to the Front Range hospital.
May said that after the hospital began looking for a partner, it became clear that having a partner would be challenging unless it came in the form of a merger, which would ensure that both organizations had the same priorities and vision.
“The partnership we’re creating is going to get us where we want to be,” May said. “We’re extremely satisfied on where we came out on this.”
Hospital officials said in an announcement on their website Wednesday morning that the partnership would allow YVMC to continue its growth as a hub of advanced care for patients throughout the region, allowing the hospital to offer lower costs and increased access to health care for people in the Yampa Valley.
“The commitment is for care to be provided locally,” May said.
YVMC Chief Medical Officer Lisa Kettering said in a news release that she was excited for the potential of the partnership with UCHealth.
“They understand and echo our desires for how patient care is delivered,” Kettering said.
If an agreement were reached between YVMC and UCHealth, the hospital would be expected to pool its profits with other hospitals in the system, leaving capital needs in each location to be decided by UCHealth.
May said he expects initiatives that support the community, such as last year’s $150,000 donation from YVMC to local school districts for mental health care, to continue if the proposed merger is finalized.
“(UCHealth) has a strong commitment to community, so I see that continuing,” May said.
The hospital would continue to rely on the YVMC Foundation for financial support for new projects, and all donations to the foundation would stay local.
The hospital would also retain its own board of directors, though a representative of UCHealth could join YVMC’s board and YVMC would consider having a representative sit on the board of another UCHealth hospital, May said.
May said he didn’t expect any changes to staffing levels at the hospital now or after a merger, except to say that staff levels could increase in the future.
“We’re actually looking to expand services,” May said.
Staff physicians would become UCHealth staff, but physicians with independent practices and hospital privileges would continue existing relationships with YVMC.
May said plans to relocate its two YampaCare outpatient service locations in Craig into a single location in the city’s old Safeway building remains indefinitely on hold, though it would be considered in the future among other capital planning.
May said the proposed merger was news to staff on Wednesday as well, and hospital leaders spent the day holding touch-base meetings with various departments about the possible partnership.
“I think our staff has been very receptive and open to this,” May said.
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Steamboat Springs part-time resident David Dennis is approaching the third-year mark from when his right leg was amputated below the knee.