Steamboat Springs is a small town. But the hearth care options are nothing but huge.  UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center puts the emphasis on “health” when it comes to Steamboat’s healthy lifestyle.

When people talk about why they moved to Steamboat, they might mention the small mountain town lifestyle, the community, and the beauty of the Yampa Valley. If they have kids, they might be concerned about the quality of the public schools and sports programs. But one thing that’s important to everyone, from young to old, is the quality of health care.

For people who live in the smaller, more rural mountain communities of Colorado’s Western Slope, the assumption is specialized care might require travel to Denver or even farther. The idea that quality health care might be limited is often viewed as a trade-off for all the other benefits of living in the mountains.

That’s not the case in Steamboat, where our local health care facility, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, is part of a network of nationally-recognized hospitals, clinic locations and health care providers that extend from Colorado Springs and the Denver metro area into Northern Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. Not only does this state-of-the-art hospital offer a wide variety of specialties and top-notch health care providers, it also has facilities and treatment centers where Steamboat residents and visitors can get the best possible care.

We sat down with Soniya Fidler, Interim President and Chief Operating Officer of  YVMC, to discuss the health care services people might not realize are available right here in Steamboat, and to let people know small towns can have big heart and top-quality services when it comes to health care.

Let’s talk first about the facility. Tell us about YVMC
and what it has to offer its local residents.
“We are a smaller hospital, a 39-bed facility that includes 20 surgical beds, 4 intensive care unit beds, and a 15-bed birthing center, with approximately 75 physicians on the active medical staff and over 560 employees. We have been providing health care for over 100 years in the Yampa Valley. The hospital, in its current location on Central Park Drive, opened in 1999. We often talk about what people look for in a community, and the two most important things are schools and the quality of health care. We feel the level of health care in our town sets us apart from other mountain towns.”

What makes Steamboat different?
“We’re able to attract talented physicians and staff because of the nature of our community and the connection we have to the outdoors. We are fortunate in that we have very little turnover from our physicians and medical staff. We have strong physician relationships, strong partnerships, and solid relationships with our independent practitioners. We serve a significant number of tourists and visitors who are often very surprised at the level of advanced services and the quality of service we provide. They tend to compare us to hospitals in larger cities and tell us we have a higher quality of care because of the personal connection we make with our patients. They frequently say, ‘I was treated like a person and not a number,’ and we’re really proud of that.”

You hear a lot about small town hospitals not having a very high trauma center rating, so many emergencies get flown to Denver. Can you tell us about where YVMC ranks in terms of trauma care?
“In February 2018, we were upgraded from a Level IV to a Level III trauma center by the State of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Health Facilities and Emergency Medical Services Division. This means the state recognizes we have the personnel, resources, and commitment to be able to take care of more of our injured patients right here at home. Our emergency and trauma teams are able to provide prompt assessment, resuscitation, surgery, intensive care and stabilization of injured patients and emergency operations. It means we have coverage by board-certified emergency medicine physicians 24/7, and we retain on-call medical specialists, including surgeons and anesthesiologists, among others, to deliver a multidisciplinary, team approach to care. At the end of the day, we are able to keep more patients here at YVMC.”

Specialized care is also a big challenge on the western slope. What does YVMC offer in terms of specialized medicine?
“The availability of specialists and specialty care can be limited in locations like ours. We’re fortunate that isn’t the case in our community.

Our birth center and Level II special care nursery is here for our newest and tiniest patients. We’re able to care for babies as young as 32 weeks gestation, which is huge in allowing mothers to  stay close to home and have the support of family and friends.

The Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center is quite advanced in the range of screening and diagnostic technology. It’s on par with many major city hospitals. It’s also an incredibly comfortable, welcoming, almost spa-like environment. We have a lot of second homeowners who tell us they wait to have their screening mammograms done until they’re back in Steamboat.

Our Jan Bishop Cancer Center is a remarkable place for patients to receive their chemotherapy and infusion treatments. The warm environment offers views of the ski area while patients receive treatment in private and semi-private rooms. We have dedicated oncologists who have been coming to our valley for over 20 years, saving many patients from having to travel for oncology care. There are support groups for patients and family members, nutrition consultations, virtual reality headsets – it’s a phenomenal center.

From a clinics standpoint, we offer heart and vascular care; an endocrinology clinic; an ear, nose and throat clinic; women’s care; pain management, sports medicine and rehabilitation; and a sleep lab. We also have visiting specialists who come to Steamboat on a regular basis to provide services like neurology, pulmonology, advanced cardiology care, pediatric cardiology and maternal fetal medicine.

Surgically, we offer everything from general procedures to more advanced procedures like spine surgery. Thanks to donor generosity, we also have a surgical robot that allows our surgeons to perform minimally invasive procedures with quicker recovery periods.

Next year, we’ll open an orthopedic ambulatory surgery center through a partnership with Steamboat Orthopedic & Spine Institute, giving patients a more cost-effective option for out-patient surgery but with the same safety and quality they’d receive in a hospital setting.

With all of these specialized services, we have various teams providing a multitude of support services, including lab, radiology, rehabilitation services, pediatric therapy, nutrition, case management and more.”

How does YVMC manage being in a more remote location?
“Steamboat is our main hub and in the last few years, we’ve really made an effort to expand our services to our rural communities. We opened a family medicine clinic in Baggs, Wyoming and a primary care clinic in Craig. We offer SportsMed therapy services in Hayden and Oak Creek a few days a week, bringing care to the patient instead of the patient coming to us.

One of the great things about being part of the UCHealth family is our improved access to technology and innovative care. Take telestroke, for example. Through this new technology at YVMC, our emergency department physicians can have a neurologist on a screen in minutes to assist with diagnosing stroke in patients, something where time is certainly of the essence. With stroke, it’s important for a neurologist to see the patient to better confirm a course of treatment – medication, observation, transfer to a higher level of care, etc. In the first six months, telestroke was used with 29 patients; while six of those patients transferred to a higher level of care, the other 23 patients were able to stay locally for care, saving them time and money and keeping them close to home.

The next thing we’re focusing on is expanding our telemedicine programs. This will allow us to offer our services to rural surrounding communities, in addition to connecting our patients to specialists in Denver.”

How is YVMC active in the Steamboat community?
“YVMC has a long history of supporting the Steamboat community, and that hasn’t changed. In September 2018 in partnership with the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation, we announced a five-year, $1.375 million commitment to support mental and behavioral health resources in Routt County schools. In November 2018, we made a $1 million donation and 10-year commitment to Old Town Hot Springs to provide more programs, amenities and resources for the health and wellness of the Steamboat community. Their mission really aligns with ours in trying to promote wellness and be more proactive in everyone’s healthcare. We support a multitude of local non-profit organizations, especially when they align with UCHealth’s mission to improve lives.”

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