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The Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) continues to expand its services – now with a neuro spine program with both clinical and surgical offerings. The HRRMC Board of Directors met on Tuesday, June 22,   hearing from Neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Syre about a new program specializing in spinal care and surgery.

Previously, the Board approved hefty capital expenses for specialized technology including tools and a microscope related to cervical surgery. Even with high capital costs, Dr. Syre expects the equipment to be paid off by the end of the year through the work in the neuro spine program. The equipment has enabled HRRMC to offer more types of spinal surgeries.

Dr. Syre, who is based primarily out of Denver’s Swedish Medical Center, has a residence in Salida and has been working to build the spine program at HRRMC. The program launched in January 2021. Now, Dr. Syre, in collaboration with HRRMC provider Dr. Richard Wolkowitz, hosts a spine clinic on the 4th Friday of each month, and surgical cases on the 4th Thursday of each month.

According to Dr. Syre, 80-90 percent of the population will experience a spinal injury in their lifetime. HRRMC patients are embracing the clinic and surgical center, both of which are booked until August.

The spinal surgeries performed at HRRMC are primarily outpatient procedures and minimally invasive operations. The surgeries treat spinal conditions including disk degeneration and spine osteoarthritis. HRRMC patients with spinal conditions previously needed to travel elsewhere for surgery.

Dr. Syre says that he hopes this program can help more HRRMC patients to stay local. “The goal of this whole program is to get all these surgical cases that were typically performed down in the Springs or Vail and I think we’ve had pretty good luck with that.” Dr. Syre said.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the community. Being able to have this at home is a huge win for the patients as well” Dr. Syre added.

HRRMC Staff COVID-19 Vaccination Rate is 76 Percent

The Board also discussed the possibility of requiring hospital staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, similar to requirements for staff to get the annual flu vaccine. Currently, HRRMC staff has a vaccination rate of 76 percent compared to 61.6 percent (receiving at least one dose) for Chaffee County as a whole.

The Board researched mandating the vaccine and taking away sick leave for unvaccinated staff members who miss work with a positive COVID test. But they are not moving forward with either of those ideas at this time. The Board anticipates requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for staff members after one of the vaccines gets FDA approval.

**Correction: In the original version of the story Dr. Wolkowitz’s name was misspelled. It has since been corrected.**