Five years and finding its stride | CraigDailyPress.com

Five years and finding its stride

The Memorial Hospital in Craig celebrates five years in new facility

The Memorial Hospital in Craig marks five years Wednesday in its new facility. The hospital will host an anniversary celebration from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, inviting community members to enjoy cake and refreshments, and tour its state-of-the-art operating suites.

Seven years ago, all they could do was hope.

The Memorial Hospital Chief of Marketing and Business Development Jennifer Riley was among those in 2007 fighting to pass a 3-mill, $42.6 million ballot measure to fund the construction of a new hospital.

"It was not a slam dunk," Riley said. "Up until that day it was a nail-biter. We didn't know if we were going to be successful at all."

The measure passed in the November 2007 election by a 423-vote margin with 56 percent of the vote. Two years later, the new hospital opened its doors, and on Wednesday, TMH celebrates five years in its new facility.

The community is invited to mark the occasion with cake and refreshments from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at TMH. The anniversary celebration will include tours of the hospital — including its new, state-of-the-art operating suites.

"I think it does say a lot about what the community has done for the health care in this community," Riley said. "We'd outgrown that old facility. It was out of date and it would've cost a lot of money to bring it up to code."

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The hospital's original location at 785 Russell St., which opened its doors in 1950, became the home for TMH Medical Clinic once the new hospital was built.

The new 77,258-square-foot facility, situated on 15 acres in west Craig, is considered a critical access hospital due to its rural surroundings. It has 25 patient beds — 15 medical-surgical, four special care, two labor and delivery and four post-partum.

"Critical access hospitals play an essential role in keeping our rural communities healthy," according to the Colorado Hospital Association website.

The mill levy, which is assessed as a property tax to county residents, provides up to $1.5 million in funding annually to TMH for 40 years. TMH Board and Moffat County Commissioners passed a resolution, however, stating that the mill levy will be retired once the construction loan is paid off, which hospital administrators estimate to be about 25 years, according to Riley.

Other funding came from community donors.

"In addition to the mill levy approved by voters, the TMH Foundation raised $1.2 million in community support for the new building," Riley said.

The hospital currently employs a total of 244 people at its main facility, the clinic and the rehabilitation center, including 12 physicians and two physician assistants.

One reason behind pushing for a new hospital in 2007, Riley said, was to be able to attract good doctors.

"We were working to recruit doctors to the community, and we felt we wouldn't be successful if we didn't have the appropriate infrastructure," Riley said. "We have demonstrated in five years that that has proven to be valid."

TMH has seen a lot of growth this year, with the addition of a new permanent chief executive officer, John Rossfeld and several other key administrators — including Chief Financial Officer Jeff Chilson and Chief Nursing Officer Chris Kalinowski.

It has also welcomed several new doctors in recent months, including general surgeon Alexis Driggs, M.D., family physician Elise Sullivan, M.D., physician assistant Maggie Anderson and cardiologist Gerald Myers, M.D.

Next year, TMH will welcome its first full-time orthopedic surgeon to the team, Kevin Borchard, M.D.

With a full roster of doctors able to meet the needs of the area, Riley said their recruiting efforts will likely be winding down and the focus will move to creating a positive experience for both patients and staff.

"We'll be focusing really hard on our employees. We need the best we can get," Riley said. "The patient deserves it, the community deserves it. We need to keep them here."

In the coming five years, the hospital will also focus on building its orthopedic program, including orthopedic surgery, as well as expanding outpatient and rehabilitation services.

"Health care is shifting to more of an outpatient than inpatient service," Riley said. "More and more is being provided to people on an outpatient basis."

Perhaps most importantly, TMH will continue its efforts to improve patient care and its perception in the community. Hospital administrators, including Riley, have been reaching out to community members throughout the past year through roundtables and community events to garner feedback.

"We'll be focusing on good quality care and patient experience," Riley said. "Patients want excellent quality but they also want that high-end, extraordinary experience."

After weathering a couple of difficult years, patient numbers and revenue have increased this year, placing the hospital in a much stronger financial position than in years past.

In September, the hospital was close to breaking $5 million in gross patient revenue for the first time with a total of $4.96 million. The hospital's cash on hand is also more than it's ever been, according to Riley.

With five years under its belt in the new location, the hospital is finding its stride, boding good things to come in the years ahead for both the hospital and Moffat County.

"The Memorial Hospital is a significant economic driver for the community, and we want to be our community’s primary resource for healthcare," Riley said.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.