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At the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) board session Tuesday, directors heard details on the upcoming election for new board members to be held May 3.

Executive Assistant Juanita Ward, who is the Designated Election Official, explained the process of in-person voting at HRRMC n Salida and the Buena Vista County Annex/DMV at 112 Linderman Ave. in Buena Vista. Ballots can be cast between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. May 3.

Eligible voters can also apply for an absentee ballot from Ward between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday at the administrative offices on the second floor at HRRMC up until 2:00 p.m. April 26. Ballots can be returned to the administrative offices at 1000 Rush Drive or the Buena Vista location on election day. Absentee ballots can be returned to either office or placed in the mail, with enough lead time to ensure they will be received by the deadline of May 3.

The League of Women Voters (LWV) held a virtual candidate forum on Zoom on April 18, and a recording of that session can be found on the LWV website.

Vice President of Fiscal Service Lesley Fagerberg told the board that despite the first quarter of the year being ‘up and down,’ the district was doing ‘pretty well financially’ from an operations perspective.

Though March 31, gross patient revenue was up about $41.6 million to a total of $58,324,502 with net patient revenues $26,826,601 – close to budget projections.

Other operating revenue, which comes in at just over $1.9 million, was about $100,000 above budget, due in large part to increased pharmacy revenues with longer hours of operation.

Total operating expenses came in at nearly $26.7 million compared with the budget projection of $26,132,395.

Fagerberg commented the month of March had high surgery and outpatient volumes [possibly from surgeries and procedures postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic]. Outpatient revenues for the quarter were $20,118,668 compared to the budget projection of nearly $17 million. Other highlights in the financial report showed days-of-cash-on-hand at 170 days.

CEO Bob Morasko reported design, cost estimates and pro forma for a hospital wound center have been completed, but he elected not to move ahead with negotiations due to contract issues over management of the center. Two other companies are being consulted and he said he wants to first recruit a nurse/director with wound experience, due to recent staff turnover.

Work continues on potential employee housing, with site surveys planned at two acres near the Highway 50 clinic as well as the hospital campus. That could be followed by construction cost estimates.

Also continuing is work toward possible assisted senior living units and memory care units. Morasko said recent conversations with county staff showed a desire to focus on affordable housing and independent living instead. Cassia, a religious-based assisted living provider from Minnesota negotiating with HRRMC was asked to adjust some of their projected senior living plans in response.

April Asbury, Vice President of Patient Services, provided the board with a detailed update on continuous performance improvement procedures over the past year and efforts at hiring to fill critical nursing positions.

The challenge of filling staff positions continues to be a priority. A report from Director of Human Resources Julie Nunez indicated 71 open positions to be filled on March 31, with 44 applications received.

In other action, the board approved capital purchases of a urology thulium laser for surgical services at a cost of $134,000; replacement patient gurneys for surgery at a cost of $39,000; and ovens and a charbroiler for dietary service costing just over $20,000.

Morasko also recognized the outgoing board members who will be replaced by four new members after the May 3 election.

The current five-person board has four members term-limited or not seeking re-election, including chairperson Debbie Farrell, Dr. Harry Payton, and Tom Eve, all of who will complete eight years of service on the board. Board member Jeff Post has served two years of the second three-year term and is not up for re-election. Current board member Dean Edwards was appointed in 2021 to complete the term of former member Jean Moltz.

With past board guidance, HRRMC’s administration has spearheaded major growth in services and facilities in the past several years, including building a $10 million Outpatient Pavilion, basing a Reach Air ambulance and hangar on the hospital campus, along with a new Rocky Mountain Eye Center and soon-to-open Solvista Health Regional Assessment Center as well as expanding clinical services in Buena Vista and Saguache and Fremont Counties.

In complimenting the board members, Morasko said ”I can genuinely state they have been the most competent and ethical board members I have worked with in my 35 years as a hospital executive. I will sincerely miss you!”

Featured image: Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center. Dan Smith photo.