The Telluride Regional Medical Center is one step closer to securing a site for a new facility. The Telluride Hospital District, the center’s governing body, announced Tuesday a memo of understanding (MOU) has been signed with Genesee Properties, regarding the potential donation of a 2.6 acre parcel of land at Society Turn for development of a new medical facility. The MOU is an agreement between Genesee Properties and the hospital district to work together to secure all the necessary approvals for development of the entire parcel, according to a medical center news release.
“Everyone’s excited about it. It’s been such a long process. Even over the past three years we’ve had setbacks,” med center CEO John Gardner said. “We’d like to be celebrating, but we still have a long way to go before we can really celebrate.”
The plans are dependent on a proposed amendment to the Telluride Regional Area Master Plan, which the San Miguel County Planning Commission discussed at length March 13. The discussion will continue at Wednesday’s meeting. The CPC meets in the county meeting room in the Miramonte Building at 9:30 a.m., following a site walk at 8:30 a.m.
The proposed amendment, which would alter the allowed uses of a 20-acre parcel at Society Turn, if approved, would give Genessee the greenlight to move forward with submitting development plans, including the med center project.
The timeline is still unclear, but Gardner said, “optimistically speaking,” construction may begin in three years, if everything moves along in an orderly fashion and there are no hiccups. He added that if the amendment isn’t granted, thus axing Genesee’s plan, “we’re dead in the water and we have no alternatives.”
“That’s the frustration. This is our last chance that we can have a site that we can build a new facility on,” Gardner said.
An Economic & Planning Systems Inc. presentation at the March 13 meeting said a new medical center on the property “will drive value over time. The daytime population associated with the medical center and the related independent users that would seek co-location will, in turn, support the restaurants and retail uses that are needed to establish synergy and a sense of place.”
Hospital officials have consistently stressed the need for a bigger facility. The current med center, a remodeled building built in the 1960s and leased from Newmont Mining on the corner of Townsend Street and Pacific Avenue, is approximately 10,000-square-feet.
Gardner explained the business plan needs to be revised to reflect current demographics and patient needs.
“It’s been almost five years since the original business plan was put together. What we’ve seen is the demographics in the area have changed. We’ve seen changes in the ways the medical center is being used,” he said. “We just need to go back and look at the business plan to make sure we have the correct service mix.”
A new facility would include more in-patient rooms, and expanded lab and radiology capabilities, as well as allow the district to hire more employees, in becoming “much more of a 24-hour operation and having more diagnostic services on site,” Gardner said.
“For years, by way of design tweaks, renovations, staff increases, we’ve worked to keep our patients from feeling the ‘capacity crunch’ at our facility, but inch by inch, our staff is creeping towards a tipping point where it’s no longer comfortable for us to maintain the illusion,” said Dr. Sharon Grundy, the center’s primary care medical director. “To best provide compassionate, efficient care, we work hard to ensure patients are not sitting in halls or the lobby for extended periods, but the truth is our lab has outgrown its space, we have a manager working from a closet, blood is drawn in hallways and patients have to navigate our hallways in medical gowns to get to the imaging department.”
An independent report, from a medical architect firm, estimated that based on current building and safety codes, the facility’s size should be doubled—“and that’s before consideration of additional services and room for growth,” Gardner said.
He added that the district will work with an architecture firm after analyzing demand projections and demographics, then “refine the programming for the facility.”