Telluride Medical Center: More Growth Equals Capacity Issues

Telluride Medical Center: More Growth Equals Capacity Issues

The Telluride Medical Center announced patient visits to the primary care department grew 36 percent over the past five years, with big increases in the number of patients traveling from Norwood, Ridgway, Montrose, and Delta for expanded services.

Since 2013, patient visits from Ridgway residents has grown 248 percent; visits from Norwood have grown over 100 percent; and Delta 130 percent. Montrose residents are also coming to Telluride for healthcare in larger numbers, with the increase from 2013 to 2018 reaching 47 percent.

To accommodate this major uptick in patient demand, the primary care department maintains four providers, five days a week, which, according to Dr. Sharon Grundy, Primary Care Medical Director, is the limits of what the Med Center can sustain.

Since 1987, there have been nearly a dozen renovations to keep up with the need for increasingly complex healthcare technologies – and patient growth.

Last May, the Telluride Hospital District eked out another 225 square feet by adding a shipping container outside the primary care entrance but, according to administration, the space serves merely as a bandaid and does little to solve the overall capacity issue.

The “Wellness Annex” allowed the medical center to move the Behavioral Health team from the facility’s basement to a conference room just off of the primary care lobby — “a much more appropriate space for our team to meet with patients,” according to Dr. Grundy. “But we have reached the limits of what’s possible. We can’t add more providers without more square footage. And we’re flat out of that option.”

The Telluride Medical Center has been forced to put a freeze on bringing in new “visiting specialists”— like midwives and orthopedics doctors — who could, under different circumstances, host clinics to meet the demand for their specialized services.

Paula Scheidegger, who serves as the Primary Care Practice Manager, likened the capacity situation at the medical center to a household plant: “To thrive, a plant needs water, air and sunlight — but also space. You can’t forget about space.”

And yet, staff has still found more ways to see more patients every day.

In 2018, the amount of patients the primary care staff was able to see on any given day grew from roughly 28 patients in 2013 to 44 in 2019, a 57 percent increase.

“We’ve shifted from medical assistants to nurses to better accommodate some of the procedures our patients require. Using registered nurses provides a unique set of clinical and management skills. At their fullest potential, however, they do enhance the primary care team, patient care, and overall efficiencies,” said Scheidegger.

For over 40 years, the Telluride Regional Medical Center has leased a remodeled 1960’s building on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Townsend Street from Newmont Mining (once the Idarado Mining Company).

The facility is approximately 10,000-square-feet, half the size it needs to be to meet current demand. An independent report from an architect firm specializing in medical facilities estimates that, based on current building and safety codes, the facility should be 20,000-square-feet — and that is without adding any additional services or accounting for future growth.

We don’t have an inch to grow,” said John Gardner, CEO of the medical center. “We’re maxed out on both the space and the number of staff we can accommodate.’

This isn’t the first time the medical center has sounded the SOS on capacity. However, relief could be on the way:  The Telluride Hospital District is working closely with a private land development company with holdings in the region to reach a deal to convey 2.6 acres to be used for a new facility at Society Turn.

“There are still so many steps yet to take to secure that new home for our medical center,” said Gardner, “but there’s vision and community support, if not patience.”

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  • Pingback:TellMed Center: New Facility | Telluride Inside... and Out
    Posted at 16:46h, 27 June

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