St. Vincent Health’s new hospital opened to the public last week, an exciting milestone in Leadville and Twin Lakes’ path to growth and modernization.

The grand opening set a hopeful and bright tone for the future of health care in Lake County, one that was enhanced by live music, Silver Dollar Saloon’s catering, goodie bags and a fabulous turnout of local residents. But the true showstopper was the facility itself.

Various locals I talked to at the event described the $26 million hospital as “gorgeous,” “luxurious,” “squeaky clean” and “like a hotel.” Similar adjectives passed through my mind as I walked through the hospital’s sunlit atrium, spacious trauma bays, colorful hallways filled with local photography and art, heated pathways and helipad, eight inpatient rooms complete with grand mountain views, nondenominational “reflection room,” and operating room outfitted with ultraviolet lights that will sterilize the space between surgeries.

More important than the facility’s visceral appeal are the dozens of health care services to be offered at the hospital in the coming years. Services will include, but are not limited to: ultrasounds; orthopedic surgeries including hip, shoulder and knee replacements; colonoscopies; ophthalmology including cataract surgeries; imaging from a new 80-slice CT Scanner; pain management surgeries such as nerve block placements; dermatology; and cardiology surgeries including pacemaker battery replacements.

The array of services to be offered at the picture-perfect facility seem worlds away from the hospital district we once knew — from the 2014 closure announcement that displaced a dozen senior citizens, from the pause button placed on U.S. Department of Agriculture financing in 2017 due to the hospital’s financial underperformance, and from the dozens of St. Vincent Health employees the Herald met with over the last decade to hear off the record grievances about past CEOs, questionable staffing practices and faulty emergency room protocols.

At first look the hospital’s turnaround can seem too big to believe, a miracle too good to be true. But if you take a look back at the Herald’s coverage of St. Vincent over the last four years, the means of the hospital’s transformation become evident.

It was the small changes — the hiring of CarePoint Health physicians, the internalization of the hospital’s revenue cycle, the financing of software improvements like a cloud-based electronic health records management service, the development of the district’s swing bed program, the investment in capital expenditures like a new ambulance and cardiac stress-testing treadmill, and the gradual reduction in visiting, contract-based employees — that built to something big.

As St. Vincent grows into the new facility in the coming years, the Herald will continue to report on the small things happening inside the big building. Because as the past has taught us, it is the small changes that give way to brighter days.

Rachel Woolworth

Herald Editor

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