URGED hears presentation on hospital expansion

By Lyndsie Ferrell
DEL NORTE—The Upper Rio Grande Economic Development group met for their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 10 to hear a presentation by Rio Grande Hospital CEO Arlene Harms. The hospital has been under construction since October of last year and is nearing the final stages before the newly renovated areas will be open for business.
Harms began her presentation with a brief summary of the years since the hospital was first built in 2004, highlighting specific turning points for the hospital, such as building the new rural clinic in 2007 to building the new building for the clinic in Monte Vista in 2016. “I would like to point out that I have a truly amazing board that is dedicated to the community, and each one of these steps were taken with the community in mind,” said Harms.
In 2017, the hospital board worked to complete a USDA loan application for which they received a direct loan for $13,840,000 and then an additional guaranteed loan for $8,000,000. This coupled with the funding raised by the hospital through their Keeping the Dream Alive fundraising event, they were able to afford to expand the hospital and will be offering additional services for the surrounding communities.
“Originally, we had three recovery rooms for surgery that were separated by curtains. When we were in the planning stage of the expansion project, one thing we kept hearing from patients and doctors, was that the lack of privacy in the rooms made for a very uncomfortable experience. Anyone who has ever been in one of the surgery recovery rooms knows exactly what I am talking about,” stated Harms.
The rooms now have walls separating the rooms, with glass fronts that allow staff to see patients in their rooms and are equipped with curtains in order to afford patients and family privacy.
The hospital also expanded the clinic next door and have structured the back area based on a team care model. “The rooms surround the main office area where nurses, physicians and their care teams will be based. Having this type of model will allow for much better care for our patients. Rooms can be seen by staff on all sides and having the team approach, we can offer patients care even though their main care providers may not be available. Patients will have an entire team of health care professionals at their disposal,” explained Harms.
The new out patient clinic will house specialty clinics with cardiology, GYN, ENT and orthopedics. There is also a new, large gym for physical therapy that includes laser therapy, a traction table, dry needling services, ultrasounds, e-stem services and heat therapy. “This is going to be a state of the art physical therapy facility.”
The hospital will also now offer a wound care unit with a hyperbaric chamber and a cardiac rehabilitation center. “We have tossed around the idea of a wound care unit for many years and when we came down to whether or not we would have one, we decided that if we could save three to four people per year from having a limb amputated because a hyperbaric chamber was not available, then the unit would pay for itself within a year’s time,” said Harms.
The emergency room will now be completely secured, with limited access to patients, whether they are coming or going. “We had a specialist come in and do a survey of our original ER and it was determined that the security of the facility was less than average. We created private observation rooms that can be seen by staff that is located in the middle of the facility and the building is secure unless you have an electronic key card. There will be a physician sleep and work area, which we did not have before, as well as an EMT work area.”
Construction is nearing completion with opening dates set for middle to late August for the ER and out-patient facilities and the beginning of October for the Rio Grande Clinic and the administration facilities. The hospital is open and operating as usual. “We have some of the best staff, and I cannot thank them enough for the difficulties they have worked through during the construction,” said Harms.
The hospital’s annual Keeping the Dream Alive fundraiser dinner will take place on Aug. 11 this year.

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