Craig VNA remodel underway

Project entails adding exam, flexible-use rooms

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association has begun phase one of a remodel project to expand the number of examination rooms at its Northwest Colorado Community Health Center in Craig.

APH Construction, a Craig company, anticipates the remodel to be completed by mid-August, health center director Gisela Garrison said.

The project, funded by a $300,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Capital Improvement Program, will add six exams rooms and three flexible-use rooms to the six exam rooms the VNA currently has available.

Garrison said the remodel will allow the VNA’s four health care providers an opportunity to see more patients per hour.

“Ideally, each provider has three rooms to themselves,” she said. “Hopefully, the same provider, instead of seeing on average two patients in an hour, can see three patients per hour.”

The VNA, which operates as a federally qualified community health center, has seen 2,300 patients in the last year, up from about 800 in 2007.

In response to the volume increase, the Craig facility added Dr. Anna Lundeen to its provider staff in August 2009.

Garrison said juggling four providers with only six exam rooms has been difficult, and the remodel will improve health services for the community.

She added that APH Construction and many of the sub-contractors are locally owned and operated.

“This was really a good investment for the town,” she said of the project.

Garrison said the remodel will not affect the VNA’s health services in the coming months.

“We have not cut back on any clinic hours or had any providers not being able to work,” Garrison said.

She said APH plans to work mainly at night, leaving the six exam rooms uninterrupted.

Sue Birch, the VNA chief executive officer, said APH Construction has been accommodating to the unique needs of a health care clinic.

“They have been so sensitive and caring about maintaining the integrity of the medical services by working off hours and being thoughtful about getting things done,” Birch said.

To further minimize the impact on the health center’s services, APH will complete the project in two phases.

Phases one, slated to be completed by June 15, entails knocking down walls on the north and east sides of the building to add the first two new exam rooms and increase storage space.

Phase two, to be completed by mid-August, will include a remodel of the medical assistant station and the reconfiguration of rooms on the south side of the building, and adding four more exam rooms.

“We might experience some effects, maybe one day of slowing down when they are tearing down the lab area,” Garrison said. “But, I think the impact is minimal. If we lose one day of productivity, it is the most I can accept.”

For the remodel, several offices have been moved to newly leased space in The Memorial Hospital’s old campus, which is attached to the VNA by a hallway.

Garrison said special program offices, billing offices and eligibility staff will remain in the leased space “permanently, for the time being.”

She said the uncertainty stems from vague future funding possibilities.

“The VNA is still hoping for big federal funding to be able to buy this (building) because we lease both pieces — our main piece and the north wing of the old hospital — from The Memorial Hospital,” she said.

“The goal really is for the VNA to have their own home, which has been board-approved for ages. We are hoping for federal funding in three or five years to purchase it.”

Birch said a potential plan to add a second floor to the VNA building is still “wishful thinking.”

“We have no grants in for further capital expansion,” she said. “But, we are hopeful that as soon as the federal government issues a call, we’ll continue to seek out funds for Craig.”

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