MONTE VISTA— On Tuesday, June 11 Rio Grande Hospital (RGH) hosted its community meeting in Monte Vista. A small group of community members representing themselves, healthcare professionals, businesses and organizations were present. The attendees listened to a presentation by Chief Financial Officer Greg Porter and CEO Arlene Harms. The duo shared facts about serving the community of Monte Vista and updates to the hospital.
Porter began the presentation by stating that when the community health needs assessment was completed in Del Norte a few years ago one of the biggest questions received was why the hospital didn’t go out to each community and speak to its members individually. Therefore, a tour of the communities served by RGH was born this year.
Porter shared the history of RGH. “It was previously known as St. Joseph and ran from 1907 until 1993. It then closed its doors in 1993,” said Porter. “The hospital was serving the western end of the Valley. It was a long distance for people from, for example from Creede, to make it to Alamosa, so Del Norte was found to be a better location to serve the medical needs of those in Creede, Del Norte and Monte Vista.”
Rio Grande Hospital then rose from the ashes and re-opened at the old St. Joseph Hospital building in Del Norte in 1996. A $500,000 USDA loan was awarded and applied to begin the new hospital. It then moved to its current location in 2004. The hospital has seen positive growth in the roughly 20 years of operation. “We rose from zero assets to $42 million in 20 years,” said Porter.
RGH has a positive economic benefit to the community of Monte Vista. “We have 54 employees that list Monte Vista as their physical address, and we have a $2.2 million dollar footprint which includes wages and other assets. We’re a big user of the Monte Vista market. We bought the old SuperFoods building downtown and renovated it. We also keep our local money in the local banks. We are investing back into the Valley,” he said.
Of 51,000 encounters of patients for RGH services Monte Vista residents account for 13,000 of those visits. Around 2,000 visited the hospital specifically. That’s about 20 percent of the overall patients served by RGH. Therefore, Monte Vista is considered as very important to the hospital. Porter shared that around 68 percent of patients from Monte Vista were on either Medicaid or Medicare.
CEO Arlene Harms then continued the presentation by sharing the services offered by RGH in Monte Vista and the updates to the hospital in Del Norte. Harms began by giving an overview of the additions that have recently been made to the hospital building which include a conference room, hyperbaric chamber, specialist rooms, physical therapy, telemedicine, telepsych and a new emergency room.
“We are extremely proud of our clinic in Monte Vista which we opened up in 2016... we were able to build the clinic with 95 percent local support with contractors, architects and others from here. We were so proud that we were able to bring to the community more jobs and more revenue during construction,” said Harms.
The community has loved the drive-up pharmacy which is part of the Monte Vista Clinic, according to Harms. “It’s more busy than the inside most of the time. They’re getting about 200 prescriptions per day,” she said. When the pharmacy in Del Norte closed, it had an effect on people from South Fork and Creede. RGH developed a way to deliver medications to those residents as they had come to expect from their previous pharmacy.
There are plans to have physical therapists be located in the clinic in the near future. Currently, there are three medical providers that offer practice in the Monte Vista Clinic. They also offer sports physicals for students.
Harms continued and emphasized the additions and improvements recently made to the hospital building. She explained the new emergency department, a robot that is used for telemedicine and telepsych, a new nurses station, improved ER and recovery rooms that have glass doors to give patients more privacy, physical therapy area, a new bladder scanner, a new colonoscopy machine, a hyperbaric chamber that improves wound care and is especially beneficial for diabetics and rooms that are available for specialists such as cardiology, orthopedics, cataract removals, ulcer care, surgeons, OBGyn and ear nose and throat.
To learn more about RGH and services offered throughout the San Luis Valley, please visit riograndehospital.org or call the local clinic.