LEADVILLE, Colorado (CBS4) – As many rural hospitals struggle to find a foothold in the midst of the pandemic, St. Vincent Healthcare in Leadville is making an incredible comeback.
“St. Vincent has literally reached a point where there was two weeks of funding left in the operating budget,” said Brett Antczak, CEO of St. Vincent Health.
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Almost seven years ago it was on the verge of bankruptcy and subsequent closure, but in September it celebrated the opening of a brand new facility. On Monday, CBS4 was able to take a tour to find out how operations were going.
“For years we really lacked a full line of specialty care and now we’re able to bring back things like dermatology, ophthalmology for things like cataract surgery,” Antczak said. “Endoscopes, colonoscopes which are great screening tools just to keep people healthy.”
St. Vincent will also be bringing home health care and palliative care back over the next few months, which Antczak says Antczak needs but hasn’t had.
The most significant change is probably in emergency care. There’s a new heated helipad, trauma rooms twice the size of the old facility, and patient care rooms feel like a comfortable hotel.
“We made better sheets, higher thread count sheets, better fleece blankets, softer pillows.”
That’s what Lake County’s sprawling but growing population needs, but it’s currently not typical of a rural community.
Although none of the rural Colorado hospitals had to close completely, it was difficult.
According to the Colorado Rural Health Center, CEO turnover is at an all time high in rural hospitals, creating instability in leadership. Additionally, 22 rural Colorado hospitals were operating in the red before the pandemic hit, as financial woes between rural hospitals were exacerbated. These factors, combined with staff shortages, have created a dire situation for rural health care.
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“Rural hospitals and clinics were operating on very slim margins before this pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 on the performance of our healthcare facilities are of concern to say the least, ”said Michelle Mills, CEO of Colorado Rural Health Center.
St. Vincent Healthcare is not completely immune to the problems that other rural hospitals face. While she has successfully emerged from a financial crisis, the pandemic has made openness a challenge.
“We had several delays due to supply chain issues from a financial point of view, we felt it was best for us to use our operating budget to pay for our equipment to pay for our furniture so we are not funding these coins and we are very grateful for our partners with USDA and the Charcoal Bank who helped fund, ”Antczak said.
The 26,500 square foot facility was funded by a $ 17 million loan from the US Department of Agriculture and $ 4 million from private loans. He also received a grant of $ 535,000 from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
In addition to some construction delays, the “micro-hospital” also had staffing issues. Most have nothing to do with the vaccination mandate, the nurses have simply left for other jobs. In general, for rural hospitals, recruitment and retention can be difficult.
“With our nursing teams and with our frontline staff, we are also seeing the same issues here,” he said.
There are 130 employees currently working at St. Vincent, but the hospital still needs to fill 25 positions, mostly related to patient access and nursing.
“We’ve been working over the past year to really increase our benefits and what we can do for people. One of the main things is that we really encourage people to become more educated – if you work with us here in St. Vincent we want you to develop personally and professionally and therefore we try to provide additional funding and opportunities. . “said Antczak.
Despite staffing issues, St. Vincent continues to work on expanding services for his community.
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“Recently, Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger donated her practice, formerly known as Rocky Mountain Family Practice, to St. Vincent and the community. With this collaboration and merger we have opened our new St. Vincent Family Health Center and we actually have two new doctors who will be joining us in the next few weeks, this will add to our strength here.