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A Very Big Deal

Scott Miller

After years of planning Vail Valley Medical Center on Saturday broke ground on its future — an ambitious expansion and renovation program.

The details are too numerous for this space but high points include a new entrance a new emergency department and an overall better use of space in the oft-expanded facility. Residents and tourists alike will appreciate the plan's ultimate goal of getting the vast majority of vehicle traffic off West Meadow Drive.

This project is going to take years — five according to medical center officials. It also comes with a hefty price tag of more than $100 million.

All this work is needed for several reasons.

The main one perhaps is that real competition is on its way and the medical center needs to stay even with or ahead of big-time health care companies looking to make inroads into this market. Centura Health recently started work on an urgent care facility in Avon. Another industry giant Kaiser Permanente this year started work on a new facility in Frisco where Vail Valley Medical already does business. The company is planning to bring facilities to Eagle County too.

If Vail Valley Medical Center wants to remain independent — a stated goal of both medical center and town officials — it's going to need top-notch facilities and people. The expansion will go a long way toward meeting the first of those goals.

While the medical center several years ago made a commitment to keep the bulk of its operations in Vail there's only so much room to grow. This plan appears to be a good use of the medical center's most scarce resource — land.

For the next several years though those of us who use the medical center — most of us — will need to adapt. The medical center will remain fully operational during the project but we'll all have to navigate some different paths from parking for instance to finding how to get to the X-ray or day surgery centers.

In the end the effort will be worth it for both Vail Valley's hometown hospital and the residents and guests it serves.