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The Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) board heard on Tuesday from Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, President, and CEO of Colorado Mountain College (CMC), updating them on efforts to implement allied healthcare programs to attract students seeking health careers.

While recognizing the challenges of establishing a new campus in a new community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hauser said a lot has occurred since Salida and Poncha Springs voted to join the CMC taxing district in 2019.

Having hired staff and faculty and established an interim headquarters in the Kesner Building, 349 East 9th St. Hauser said they’ve been “getting up to speed and putting programs in place,” with help from HRRMC liaisons.

She noted there has been high interest in nurse training for the district here. “You all are not alone,” she said, noting similar interest from practically every hospital executive in their educational footprint.

Part of the pandemic environment, she noted, is that the Nursing Board has not taken any new applications for additional nursing sites; they have been in a waiting pattern.

“Even so, we are working obviously on other allied health programs, building up those, working obviously with high school students to get them interested in healthcare-related professions. Hopefully, we can build a longer-term pipeline for you all of local-grown kids and those that are interested in going into those fields that would certainly serve the hospital later in life,” she added.

She said she hoped to create pipelines for nursing students from CMC’s other campuses, including Breckenridge, Steamboat, and Glenwood Springs until more nursing capacity is built in the Arkansas Valley.

Board Chair Debbie Farrell moved on to other business and reviewed goals for 2022, some of which are already in process with CEO Bob Morasko.  They included finding a replacement for former Vice President of Providers and Clinics Peter Edis, who recently left to accept a CEO position at another health facility. Morasko welcomed Heather Roberts as Edis’s replacement.

Roberts has also assumed oversight of provider relations, medical records, performance improvement quality, and environment of care, (excluding ED and oncology) as well as rural health clinics compliance and accreditation readiness. She will also work as a liaison with the Chaffee County Health Coalition and the Colorado Rural Health Center.

Farrell said another goal was to develop a succession plan for the board to review on other senior leadership team members, outlining how each role would be filled for short-term absences and long-term replacement, including identifying any internal candidates who can be prepared to step into specific leadership roles.

With the continued expansion of facilities on the HRRMC main campus, Farrell also touched on a goal for a master plan for the hospital’s real estate and facilities. The plan, not completed last year, would determine longer-term maintenance/replacement requirements and project expansion requirements for staffing and services offered. Additionally, it would consider future use of vacant land at the hospital for internal needs and potential community projects.  These might include an assisted living complex for the community or affordable housing for employees, another specific goal Farrell listed.

In his report, Morasko said that HRRMC is making progress toward employee housing and a hospitality house. The district contracted with an outside organization to perform a site survey of the campus and will receive cost estimates from DSI Construction and other firms.

He said hospital Foundation Director Leslie Burkley has received approval from the Delnay Trust to construct a fourplex with two hospitality units and two units of single-room employee housing. The Robert and Bernice Delnay Trust contacted the HRRMC Foundation in early 2021 with a very large donation, and has agreed to allocate part of that money towards the hospitality house. Morasko said the fourplex concept has already been approved by Salida and Chaffee County and could be built sooner than units starting from scratch.

Morasko also reported that he continues to meet with the Cassia organization as well as city and county leaders on possibly establishing an assisted/independent-living complex in the community.

Cassia, a senior living organization formed through the merger of two other health organizations, Elim Care and Augustana Care, is located in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina. Morasko said a Chaffee County commissioner will research the creation of a new hospital district to assist with funding, if that approach is decided upon.

Other 2022 goals outlined by the board included continuing discussion with Solvista Health on how behavioral health patients will be handled when moving from the hospital emergency room to their new facility now under construction. Behavioral health patients now sometimes wait in the ER for hours for a transfer to another facility.

Another new goal was to open a walk-in clinic in Salida, similar to the one operated by the district in Buena Vista.

Other goals listed by Farrell included:

  • A review of pricing policy to ensure fairness and address affordability for patients who struggle with medical bills.
  • Strategically evaluate the right management structure for dealing with registration, financial counseling, billing, scheduling and customer relations in the wake of the departure of the Patient Financial Services Manager and whether employee skill sets in each business area should be more specialized.
  • Recruit replacements for doctors in General Surgery and Orthopedics as well as any other service vacancies that occur.
  • Continue work on refining the cost accounting system to delineate information on an individual physician’s or practice’s financial contribution.
  • Continue to focus on hospital IT risks as well as the hospital’s financial health. Farrell noted that health providers are often targeted for so-called ransomware attacks by hackers because of the value of the volumes of patient information they collect.

Lesley Fagerberg, Vice President of Fiscal Services, reported on the financial picture for the last month of 2021 as the year. Total patient service revenues were $19,074,829, compared with the budget estimate of $16,341,640 and patient revenues for the month totaled $8,154,237, slightly higher than the budgeted estimate of $7,897,117. The hospital had 284 days’ cash on hand, Fagerberg noted.

Net operating gain for the month was $453,066 against the budget estimate of $419,842. For the year, net operating gain was pegged at $11,958,847 compared with the budgeted gain of $5,100,235.

She said while inpatient volumes were under estimates, they were made up for by volumes on the outpatient and clinic revenues.

Fagerberg noted the figures for deductions were above budget due to being overpaid by the Medicaid program. Hence, the district will have to pay back about $3.7 million by the end of May.

In other action, the board approved the purchase of 93 Dell desktop computers to replace aging units in the field at a cost of $92,784 with three-year support services included.

Also approved was the purchase of additional surgical instruments for Dr. Peter Syre, a spine surgeon for cervical and disc surgeries at a combined cost of more than $35,000.