YVMC celebrates 5 years with UCHealth

UCHealth acquired Yampa Valley Medical Center in September 2017, which was a reason for a large group photo of YVMC employees five years ago. Local professionals say the fact that YVMC is under the umbrella of UCHealth has proven advantageous to the community.
UCHealth/Courtesy photo

Ask community leaders if the medical needs of Routt County and beyond have been better served in the last five years of Yampa Valley Medical Center under the umbrella of UCHealth, and the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

Despite some initial hesitancy, local professionals now say UCHealth has brought more depth to YVMC. The medical center celebrated five years with UCHealth on Sept. 1, and hospital officials say that milestone represents new patient services, advancements in technology, new care locations and significant investments in the local community.

“We, like many others in the community, were a little uncertain about how things would change with this partnership; however, from our perspective, it has been tremendously successful,” said Ken Rogers, district manager at South Routt Health Service District. “(UCHealth/Yampa Valley Medical Center) has been helpful and supportive to our practice in many ways including diagnostic testing, integrating our (electronic medical record systems), information resources and practice roundtables.”

“During COVID, we received help from their lab and pharmacy on a regular basis, along with even providing supplies when we were running short,” Rogers said.

Soniya Fidler, president of UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, said she is “proud of (their) continued commitment to (their) patients.”

“These first five years with UCHealth have been incredible,” Fidler said. “We have continued to deliver personalized care as our community’s local hospital while at the same time enhancing access to care and clinical expertise.”

Chief Nursing Officer at YVMC Kelly Gallegos noted, “Both our local medical community and our patients benefitted from the latest research, infectious disease subject matter experts and quick access to testing, therapeutics and vaccines thanks to UCHealth.”

YVMC highlights advancements in past five years

Yampa Valley Medical Center officials provided some highlights of the improvements or milestones since joining UCHealth five years ago:

  • Outpatient visit growth of 25% from fiscal years 2018 through 2022
  • YVMC increased employee base by approximately 12% with more than 25 providers added to the medical staff from September 2017 to July 2022
  • New subspecialties including endocrinology, ENT (ear, nose and throat), neurology, rheumatology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, and behavioral health
  • Access to subject matter experts at other UCHealth facilities and through the School of Medicine on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
  • Additional patient care options such as midwifery, aquatic therapy and telehealth appointments
  • New facilities for lower cost options for care including UCHealth Urgent Care and partnering with Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute to open Steamboat Surgery Center
  • Emergency Department $10 million renovation project
  • UCHealth Specialty Care opened in the Outpatient Pavilion
  • UCHealth Craig Medical Clinic complete renovation
  • New and upgraded medical equipment such as automated breast ultrasound, mobile PET/CT, da Vinci XI robotic-assisted surgery system, and telestroke equipment
  • Technological advancements including new electronic medical records, patient portal and mobile app as well as introduction of remote monitoring and virtual ICU
  • YVMC staff received enhanced benefits and programs including continuing education offerings, new growth opportunities through UCHealth’s Ascend Career Program, pension plan, competitive salaries, annual performance bonus, and access to 24/7 personal emotional support and workplace well-being resources

UCHealth is a nonprofit health system that includes some 28,000 employees and 12 acute-care, full-service hospitals with University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor.

Dr. Brian Harrington, public health officer for Routt County and a physician at Yampa Valley Medical Associates for 16 years, said the hospital’s affiliation with UCHealth was a “major help” in the local struggle with COVID-19.

“One reason that the local hospital sold to UCHealth five years ago was a belief that YVMC needed the resources of a bigger health system to be better prepared for future challenges,” Harrington said. “The sale proved to be prescient with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. UCHealth provided medical expertise, material resources and a network of care that resulted in big dividends in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.”

A sign posted outside of the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs thanks doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers for their frontline efforts dealing with the spread of COVID-19.
John F. Russell

“They were an early provider of PCR testing when most Colorado counties, especially rural ones, did not have that,” Harrington said. “Our local UCHealth hospital ran our community’s biggest testing center throughout the pandemic.”

The public health officer said YVMC was among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines and committed significant resources to helping the community receive initial vaccinations. 

“Through UCHealth, our hospital was an early, and one of the few, sites in the state providing monoclonal antibody treatments,” Harrington said. “As one of our local hospitalists, I know from personal experience that our connections through UCHealth facilitated the transfer of seriously ill COVID patients to higher levels of care when ICU beds in the state were scarce.”   

The combined UCHealth Specialty Care clinic in Steamboat Springs opened in May 2022.
UCHealth/Courtesy photo

Dr. Patrick Johnston, a surgeon at Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute, said having UCHealth in Steamboat has created more opportunities for medical education. SOSI doctors have increased the amount of time spent teaching medical students and residents.

“This is something that is gratifying for our surgeons and helps create a stronger future of health care,” Johnston noted.

SOSI surgeon Dr. Andreas Sauerbrey said something as seemingly simple as the UCHealth electronic medical record system, which is called Epic, has been helpful.

“I have shared or referred patients in the Front Range (Denver) hospitals and specialists, as this is much easier within the system through the use of Epic, arranging for appointments and following complicated cases whether fracture, tumor or revision,” Sauerbrey noted.

The $10 million renovation of the Emergency Department at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center was completed in early May 2021.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Business leaders are positive too. Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO Kara Stoller believes the five years of YVMC under the umbrella of UCHealth “have been nothing but monumental.”

“From major renovations and new locations to leading our community through a pandemic and embarking on an employee housing project, the UCHealth YVMC team drives forward to ensure patients are provided the best care and the team is strongly supported,” Stoller said.

John Bristol, executive director of Routt County Economic Development Partnership, said YVMC and the UCHealth system are a plus for individuals looking to relocate to Northwest Colorado and businesses considering the Yampa Valley.

Clinical staff catch up on computer work between patients at UCHealth Urgent Care in May 2022. The Urgent Care opened under UCHealth in May 2021.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“Eds and Meds are the two key community institutions that often drive relocation decisions,” Bristol said.

Dr. Laura Sehnert, YVMC chief medical officer, believes UCHealth is an asset in the ever-changing world of medical care.

“We’ve shared many of our best practices with our UCHealth colleagues in other locations and have appreciated learning from them as well,” Sehnert said.

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