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Hospital Town Collecting Ideas for VVMC Expansion

Randy Wyrick The Vail Daily

Vail Valley Medical Center's future includes growth and the hospital and town are getting a handle on what that looks like.

Toward that end the hospital and town are hosting a series of public input meetings which began Wednesday.

Hospital officials talked a little and listened a lot. They're early in the master planning phase and they really do want to know what the community wants in its hospital.

For now officials are trying to figure out where things will go when they'll be built and how much those things will cost. Planners will move things around and rearrange parts after listening and will eventually come up with a design.

“We call this part of the project the Rubik's Cube of hospital planning” said Russ Sedmak director of health care design with Heery International the firm designing the project. The company just finished a similar project in Aspen.

Wednesday's session was more brainstorming than anything.

“We have an aging facility. Some of these facilities were built in 1967. It's not about the next few years it's for the next 10 or 20 years” said medical center CEO Doris Kirchner.

Hospital representatives didn't bring plans or drawings. Instead they brought huge pads of paper to write down ideas.

There was one overhead photo of the property the hospital owns depicted by a big yellow line. That's where they're starting because that's what they own but they fully expect to color outside that line Kirchner

Kirchner and George Ruther Vail's community development director agreed that the town's land around the municipal buildings should be part of the discussion.

“The medical center is a cornerstone of the community” Ruther said. “The growth throughout our county and the increase in the number of year-round guests requires the hospital to adapt and grow to continue to meet the demands of a unique population.”

As much as anything else people told medical center officials it's a monumentally bad idea for emergency vehicles to continue to roll up West Meadow Drive to get to the hospital.

One neighbor called the current setup “ludicrous.” As Vail grew the hospital grew along with it and in 1967 it wasn't a problem. Now it seems to be.

The town would also like to see emergency vehicles off West Meadow Drive Ruther said.

West Meadow Drive's primary purpose is to provide vehicle access for residents and property owners. However the hospital is one of those property owners Ruther said.

Also if helicopters could land a little farther away that'd be great people said. The helipad is across the street from the hospital at the west end of the Vail municipal building property. The Federal Highway Administration and the Colorado Department of Transportation own the land. In 1984 Vail got permission to use it for one year Ruther said. Eventually they'll want their space back but the helipad isn't going away — it's too important to too many people Ruther said.

“The key is to make sure it's in the right place” Kirchner said.

Sedmak said he and the Heery staff will take Wednesday's ideas and come back with some sort of vision in two months or so with more input.

When they're done — and there's no concrete timetable on when that will be — they'll have a master plan to use as a guiding document for the hospital's nearterm projects as well as future expansion Kirchner said.

Sedmak said they'll build the new space and put things in it and then remodel the
old space.

“You can't renovate a space when you're seeing patients” Sedmak said.

Renovations could take two years he said.

“This building is not going away. It'll be here in 50 years” Sedmak said.