Hospital expansion helps Glenwood Springs weather the recession | PostIndependent.com

Hospital expansion helps Glenwood Springs weather the recession

Kelley Cox Post Independent
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS – As the final segment of a six-phase Valley View Hospital expansion begins to take shape, the economic benefits of that ongoing construction, as well as hospital services in general, have helped stabilize an otherwise sluggish local economy.

“Health care does tend to provide some of the best jobs you can have in a community,” Valley View CEO Gary Brewer said during the nonprofit hospital association’s annual meeting on Thursday.

And several straight years of construction work have only brought added economic benefit locally, Brewer said in his yearly presentation to the hospital board of directors, staff and community members.

The $65 million, five-story, 145,000-square-foot addition now under construction will include the new VVH Cancer Center and a variety of other uses. It is on schedule to be completed in May 2012.

Hospital construction from 2010 to 2012 is projected to generate 532 direct jobs, and nearly as many secondary jobs, according to a report on the hospital’s regional economic benefits. The report was prepared for VVH by Management and Planning Research (MPR) of Hamilton, Mont.

In 2010, hospital construction accounted for 57 percent of total building permit valuations in Glenwood Springs. That’s up from 18 percent in 2009 and 35 percent in 2008.

“Valley View Hospital construction projects represent a significant investment in the community,” according to the report, which was handed out at Thursday’s meeting.

“In light of the strong downturn in the local economy in recent years, the hospital’s construction projects represent a large part of all construction in Glenwood Springs, to the benefit of all local workers,” the report noted.

Aside from all the construction activity over the past several years, the hospital itself remains one of the largest single employers in the region, and still growing.

Valley View directly employs 835 people. Total full-time equivalent jobs have grown from 487 in 2007 to 594 last year. The number of physicians on staff has increased from 138 in 2007 to 175 last year.

Direct hospital employees accounted for $45.9 million in earnings, according to the MPR report.

“A secondary, indirect level of employment is generated as each of the hospital employees invest and spend their incomes in the region,” it notes. “The hospital employees create demand for other workers, such as school teachers, retail workers, accountants, grocery story workers, and so on.

“Because the hospital sector is relatively well paid, the secondary employment effect is higher than most other service sector jobs,” the report also notes.

Throughout Garfield County, as of the second quarter of 2010, there were a total of 2,488 workers in hospitals, ambulatory health care services, nursing homes and other residential care centers. Valley View accounted for 34 percent of those jobs, according to the MPR report.

An increase in several “big-ticket” regional services at VVH, such as the new cardiology lab, has helped the hospital cover the cost of providing services to uninsured patients, Brewer said.

VVH provided $15.5 million worth of so-called “charity care” during 2010, up from $12.7 million in 2009, $6.7 million in 2008 and $5.3 million in 2007.

“The charity care provided by Valley View Hospital directly benefits patients and is provided without benefit of local public funds,” the MPR report states. Two other hospitals serving the region, Grand River Hospital in Rifle and Aspen Valley Hospital, receive property tax revenues, while VVH is a private, nonprofit facility.

A future concern for VVH, once the new cancer center addition is completed, will be coming up with adequate parking to serve the hospital, Brewer said.

“We will need to start planning for that,” he said, noting that a multilevel parking structure somewhere in the vicinity will be a likely long-term solution.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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