Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center.

The Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) board meeting on Tuesday March 24 included a 2019 Annual Critical Access Hospital Report review and 2019 final audit report, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) and preparations for it was the elephant in the room.

The spread of the pandemic disease has already prompted aggressive changes in some procedures and facilities the board was told, and will have a hefty impact on the generally solid financial position of the hospital and clinics in the district.

CEO Bob Morasko briefed board members, some of whom participated remotely, on the status of the hospital in the wake of the expanding infection rate of the COVID-19 virus.  He said he was very proud of the exceptional efforts of the hospital staff during this time of unprecedented stress caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

Vice President of Patient Services, April Asbury told board members that, as previously reported, shortages indeed do exist with protective gear for employees, including masks, gowns and there is concern over critical equipment such as ventilators for patients should a surge of infected patients arise. She indicated they expected a report on shipments of some masks as early as today (March 25) from those monitoring national stockpiles.

Asbury described the hospital supply of the preferred medical N95 surgical masks as “tapped out,” but said there were concerns now with the gown supply for employees. She said there was a potential procedure that could utilize the sanitary wiping down of gowns for reuse when they run out. She also said an effort would be mounted to ask for donated personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies from the community, which has now been announced by the Chaffee County Public Health Department (see related story).

Elsewhere, the board heard a review of the 2019 final audit report from Tammy Rivera which indicated a healthy financial picture currently. A few of the highlights included capital assets of more than $8 million over 2018, total assets above $122 million and with cash on hand, the ability to continue operations for approximately 253 days without additional inflows.

Rivera said there was only one audit adjustment required and called it “another clean audit provided by management.” For the year, it showed operating revenue of about $83 million compared with $103 million in total operating expenses.

Lesley Fagerberg, Vice President of Fiscal Services reported the financial position of HRRMC was strong through the first two months of the year, but that it would undoubtedly deteriorate with the broad impact of the coronavirus. “This might be the best month we have in quite some while,” she said.

Asbury also presented a Critical Hospital Access evaluation report done for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

CEO Bob Morasko noted the expansion of services and specialists over the past year including the opening of the Outpatient Pavilion last May, expanding cardiology, orthopedic and pain services, a wellness department including a SilverSneakers program, an employee gym, new space for cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and a new physical therapy unit with a pool.

In addition, Salida Family Medicine joined HRRMC as the Salida Health Center, and Saguache Health Center was added, while the Buena Vista Health Clinic is expanding hours and planning for a major expansion. Those clinics, Morasko noted, have recently been designated Rural Health Clinics. Patient volumes have increased in nearly all areas of the hospital and clinics.

The board also approved capital purchase requests including 10 Controlled Air Purifying Respirators with storage cabinets for potential pandemic pandemic use, at a cost of nearly $15,000; three walk-in tubs for the Family Birth Center; 20 laptop computers for Information Systems; eFenton devices to bring a clean Verizon signal to the hospital’s distributed antenna system as well as breast density software for the Imaging Department and hot water boilers.

In addition to the financial audit and critical access hospital report, the board heard reports on the medical staff from Chief of Staff Daniel Wardrop as well as additional administrative reports, including the annual emergency management report.