Hospital Update: There Is No Easy Way Out
On November 8, the St. Vincent Hospital (SVH) Board Strategic Retreat was held at the Elks Lodge in Leadville. There was an overflow crowd of nearly 200 Lake County residents who took time off from work – or weekend – to have their voices heard, as hospital administrators and board members navigated how to move forward, after voters rejected the mill levy initiative on Nov. 4.
Representing St. Vincent Hospital were Board Members: Nancy Boeve, Denny Johnson, Byron Copley, and Josh Colley. SVH Board Member Fernando Mendoza was absent . In addition, the hospital’s CEO Joyce Beck and CFO Ric Eisenring were there, as well as other management and staff from the medical facility.
It was clear from the start that everybody in that room wanted the hospital to remain open. It was clear that everybody in that room was concerned with patient-care and health care. But what muddied the waters in that moment, was years of community mistrust, meeting up with the months of a hard-fought – unsuccessful – campaign; the two sides seemed more polarized than ever, as folks crammed into the Elks Ballroom to hear the fate of the 135-year old hospital.
The morning’s agenda included Beck’s presentation of the“St. Vincent Hospital Operational Plan” for the next year to the Hospital Board and the citizens of Lake County.
“The purpose of the presentation,” explained Beck from the onset, “is to look at the options that we have.” The three options presented are outlined below for readers. For more details including floor plans and timelines, please see the next video which captures Beck’s complete presentation.
- Option A is to retain the emergency room, the lab, the radiology and the clinic. Beck outlined how that would like, including a floor plan and price tag of $750,000. All of the specific details for Option A are described in this video
- Option B – close entire hospital systemically, close clinic. In the video Beck discuss the procedural process of closing St. Vincent Hospital after 135 years in operation.
- Option C – let the building choose when to close the hospital. Beck describes the plusses and minuses of this choice?
During her presentation, Beck clearly outlines the regulations she is bond by under the Colorado Department of Public Health, as well as agreements and waivers already in place with the State (not Lake County) Fire Marshal. Once the hospital’s mill-levy increase ballot Issue 5A was rejected by voters on Nov. 4, the ticking timeline for compliance became louder, echoing off a diminishing bank account.
In order to please both agencies, Beck reported that the hospital gave the long-term care residents a 30 day notice, but were trying to get them out of the rooms that are using the portable heaters within seven days. Some residents have found other nursing homes. Those residents who have not found alternative places by tomorrow, November 14 will be moved to the acute care beds in St. Vincent’s other hallway until the 30 days is up.
The problem with the ECU wing of the hospital, reported Beck, was that there was no heat in the rooms on that side of the hospital and so portable heaters have been used for quite some time. The State Fire Marshall continued to work with the hospital, extending waivers with the understanding that the hospital had been looking for funding.
Now it’s at this point in the story where the details vary a bit, not an unlikely scenario when situations become intense, emotions run high, and not everything is put in writing to assure the facts stand alone.
One Leadville resident who spoke from personal experience was Luanne Patton, whose sister is an ECU resident. In this video, Patton expresses her frustration with the notification process for ECU patient re-location, as well as the priorities she believes are reflected in the hospital’s decision.
Please note that each speaker was allotted 3 minutes and that the board was not expected to respond directly to comments or questions. The hospital board initially allotted only 30 minutes for public comment, which they eventually rescinded to allow time for everyone to be heard.
Here is Luanne Patton in her own words:
During her presentation to the board, Beck shared her ongoing conversation with the Fire Marshall.
“’I will give you until the mill levy ballot issue,” Beck said, reiterating her conversation with the State Fire Marshall. “’If it does not pass, then the next day, then I will come and do my job.’ And so he did, he came the next day, cited us, and said we have seven days.”
So SVH moved forward, trying to juggle between the two agencies – one that says seven and one that says 30 days for re-locating the ECU patients. Beck concluded that both entities were working with the hospital very well.
However the ECU issue and conversation was far from over for many in the audience, including lifelong Leadville residents Ron and John Yudnich, whose 98-year-old mother – also a lifelong Leadville resident – is also an ECU patient. In this video, during Ron Yudnich’s 3 minute time allotment, Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue Chief Dan Dailey interrupts to provide some clarification surrounding the Fire Marshall’s directives and extensions in place for the hospital during this critical time. Readers should understand that the hospital has been in communication with the STATE Fire Marshall and not the Leadville/Lake County Fire Marshall.
The video concludes with John Yudnich’s (the other brother) description of their family’s experience of the process as well as questions, that went unanswered by the board.
In the end, after hearing everyone’s concerns, the board went into Executive Session and by the end of Saturday, a decision had been made. Here are those results.
Please note that this is the exact message Leadville Today (along with others on a private email list) received from SVH Board Member Denny Johnson:
A number of you were at the meeting concerning the hospital today. I appreciate that very much. I thought I should give those who might be interested an update so you don’t have to wait for the newspaper, and so that you actually get accurate information. In a nutshell, here is what the board decided:
1. We will not make any repairs to the building at this time, and will try to get by on the existing heating system indefinitely. We will not make repairs because we don’t have the money.
2. We will close services that are costing us money and will try to keep open the emergency room, X-ray, lab, and medical clinic until March 31, and longer if we can. By eliminating the services which are costing us money, we hope to keep the emergency services available longer. The services we are cutting now will be eliminated over a period of two or three months, except for long term care which will be stopped sooner because of orders from the State.
3. We will apply for a $ 1 million grant identified by the EDC and also go to DOLA to see if they will modify our existing $ 1 million matching grant to replace the heating system. If we are successful, we will revise our plans for closure and hopefully keep at least the emergency room and ancillary services open.
4. We will continue to seek help from all sources. We will notify every adjacent hospital, and every major health care organization of our impending closure. We have been in frequent contact with many of them in the past, but advising them of an impending closure might motivate someone to come here to help us or to start their own operation. We will cooperate with anyone who wants any information, or who wants to buy equipment or real property if that will allow continuation of health services in Lake County.