These are truly historical times – for humanity, for Aspen and for Aspen Valley Hospital. As we continue to see rising COVID cases, on the eve of what appears to be our path out with vaccines, AVH is celebrating the advent of our new relationship with The Steadman Clinic (which officially started on December 1). I can’t help but marvel at the juxtaposition of these two dynamics, between the greatest threat to befall our hospital and community in over a century, and one of the most exciting advancements in orthopedic care, which builds upon decades of pioneering orthopedic surgery in Aspen.
At the risk of sounding like one of many broken records of late, we can see the light at the end of our long dark COVID tunnel, in the form of emerging vaccines. However, a whole lot of damage can still occur before they are broadly administered – in the form of economic impacts, social and emotional degradation, and illness and mortality – if we don’t maintain our prevention vigilance. Thankfully, our business community and local public and elected officials have been proactive and supportive of what needs to be done, which our healthcare providers very much appreciate. AVH is also pleased to be a part of a multi-pronged cooperative community testing approach to root-out the virus and support the Pitkin County Public Health Department’s “Box-It-In” strategy.
The state of Colorado came through with testing resources not previously seen in most rural Colorado communities, just as our numbers and testing needs started to precipitously rise and outpace our hospital’s capacity. But as of now, we will be on our own again in 2021, and while we are hoping for national and state testing resources to be forthcoming, we are working on our own local solutions with an array of public and private partners and funders to maintain broad community testing.
Our focus now continues to be on maintaining our healthcare capacity to contend with the expected increased numbers of patients that require COVID-related medical care. Many communities in various states, including Colorado, are reporting full saturation levels and are employing desperate measures we want to avoid. We continue to maintain surge plans, and we are working closely with neighboring hospitals and others across the state to optimize our collective bed availability, as well as staffing and other resources. Protecting our staff and physicians, and keeping them healthy and able to work, remains a very high priority. They will be among the first to be vaccinated, based on federal and state guidance, which will help. But we will maintain limited access to the hospital, adhere to strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and screen all staff, patients and visitors upon arrival.
Through the dense COVID fog, we can see the bright light of our new Steadman Clinic practice and the construction of the new facilities in Willits to house a state-of-the-art surgery center, the Steadman Philippon Research institute, a second Steadman Clinic location (in addition to the location at AVH), and rehabilitation services. I had the opportunity to walk through The Steadman Clinic location at AVH on the first day of operations, Tuesday, and the excitement and energy was palpable among the staff, physicians and patients. Like Aspen itself, the new practice is a mix of new and old faces among the surgeons and the staff, all of whom are a part of our vibrant community that both attracts their talents, and benefits from them.
That’s the same story of Aspen since the first days when the Paepckes had a vision for what this town could become, and continues to define, by attracting the best and the brightest.
CEO, Aspen Valley Hospital