NewsCovering Colorado


State of Growth: Are hospitals keeping up with demand in southern Colorado?

Posted at 12:30 PM, Jun 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-13 10:10:53-04

COLORADO SPRINGS – COLORADO SPRINGS – It’s a time of booming hospital growth in southern Colorado and specifically Colorado Springs. New hospital facilities are busy and there may be no bigger current example of growth than the new Children’s Colorado Hospital in the Springs.

“Colorado Springs is one of just a handful of cities this size, that does not have a dedicated pediatric hospital and we are excited to change that,” said Greg Raymond, who is the southern region chief operating officer for Children’s Colorado.

UCHealth and Centura are the two largest hospital systems in southern Colorado. Both are focused on growth.

Joel Yuhas is the President and CEO of the UCHealth Memorial system. ”Healthcare across-the-board at UCHealth is growing. We are growing here in the Springs adding new facilities and new patient units to keep up with the demands of our growing population.”

Dr. Brian Erling is the chief executive officer of Penrose – St. Francis health services. “We are looking to continue to grow in general. We have lots of beds to meet the demand for the Pikes Peak Region. The challenges we have are the usual peaks and valleys, like flu season.”

In Colorado Springs, the addition of Children’s Hospital Colorado, located on the Memorial North campus on Briargate and Union has given UCHealth some natural opportunities for growth.

“Children’s Hospital Colorado has been a great partner with us,” Yuhas said. “They’ll continue to be a presence at Memorial Central, with a neonatal intensive care unit but with their new hospital we are able to re-purpose some inpatient beds that would be allocated for children to adults.”

UCHealth added a new tower to the north hospital in February that includes oncology services and a new labor and delivery unit. That unit connects directly to Children’s. Yuhas explains, “So as we have high-risk deliveries we are physically connected to Children’s hospital so that we can jointly care for both mom and baby.”

Dr. Erling said the addition of Children’s is a benefit for the entire community. “The number of pediatric beds in north springs is changing dramatically and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with them, to make sure that we’re meeting the health care needs of our youngest citizens.”

Big growth is in the future for Penrose – St. Francis Health Services. Its parent company, Centura Health, purchased the land next to I-25 south of Interquest Parkway in Colorado Springs. There is no timetable to begin construction, but the search has begun for an architecture firm to design what will start off as an orthopedic and spine hospital with around 50 beds and 10 operating rooms.

“The growth and utilization patterns in this community are such, that we need to build in order to meet the demand of the community, and that’s what we’re here for,” says Kevin Cullinan, chief operating officer for Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

For all health providers in southern Colorado, tackling the growth model presents certain challenges. When it comes to hospitals and providers, Pueblo has seen more instability in recent years.

In the last year, Parkview Medical Center took a number of steps to fulfil its five-year master plan and provide services to patients who were affected by St. Mary-Corwin’s decision to reduce its services.

Parkview upgraded its nursery and focused nearly all of its construction on the new emergency room, set for completion will by 2020. That project will nearly double the size of the ER.

But other projects were finished as well. Five more bays were added to the Pueblo West ER.

Parkview Medical Center moved its inpatient rehabilitation department into the North Annex building across 17th Street and converted that vacated space in the hospital into 16 more hospital beds

“The health care industry can be very unpredictable, but under the guidance of our dedicated and local board of directors, Parkview Medical Center does it’s level best to prepare for those uncertainties,” said Parkview Medical Center President and CEO Leslie Barnes. “We’ve taken a lot of steps to maintain the highest quality of health care to the people of Pueblo and Southern Colorado and will continue to do so.”

Mike Cafasso, chief executive officer at St. Mary – Corwin Hospital says the overall health picture in Pueblo is good. “The providers in the community are doing a very solid job of maintaining the level of care that’s necessary for the community.”

Dr. Erling explains for Penrose – St. Francis Health Services, “One (challenge) is very basic, staffing. We have a very highly-skilled workforce and meeting the demand of growth is very difficult.” For one, Dr. Erling says, “There are not enough new graduates and training programs in the state to meet the demand.”

Yuhas says another challenge is evolving how the customer service end of medical care delivered. “Healthcare consumers are more sophisticated today than ever before,” He said. “They want easier access to more and more services not just in a hospital, but also in an outpatient scenario.”

The pride that each hospital system takes in being best, works to the advantage of those of us who live in southern Colorado.

“I think any competitive situation makes everyone a little bit better, keeping your edges sharper,” Cafasso said. “We continue to work very hard to make sure that everyone has the services available to them, as they need them.”

”We’re all trying to differentiate ourselves in different ways for the consumer,” Dr. Erling says. “We have a brand that is specific to us, it’s on our people and it’s on whole person care which is a little bit unique in the market. The competition, in general, is a positive thing.”

Yuhas sees it all as a benefit to those who seek health care.

“Consumers win when there is healthy competition in the healthcare market,” Yuhas said. “Each health system is going to continue to try and do their best to grow and expand and evolve and meet the needs of our community.”

As for the latest hospital addition in Colorado Springs, the ribbon cutting at Children’s Colorado is happening in July. Raymond explained that it’s not a simple as turning a key and opening the front door.

“When you open a brand-new facility there are a lot of steps that have to take place. From the planning, the design, the construction, the operational training to get everyone on board ultimately resulting in the first patient day. We are taking a phased approach, which really means we’ll start to see more and more activity on the campus around Children’s Hospital Colorado (in Colorado Springs), but not all of our services will be available day one. We will be fully open in mid-summer for all services and we expect at that time to really celebrate what the potential of this (new) facility is – in Colorado Springs.”