Karen Winkelmann

Telluride Regional Medical Center’s new executive director, Karen Winkelmann. (Courtesy photo)

Karen Winkelmann, who has over 20 years of experience in health care management, became the new CEO of the Telluride Regional Medical Center (TMC) in August. She replaces John Gardner, who was brought on as CEO in the spring of 2016, when the Telluride Hospital District anticipated breaking ground on a new facility in Mountain Village; a plan that has since changed. 

Winkelmann earned her Bachelor of Science degree in business management from the University of Houston, and a Master of Healthcare Administration in 2018 from CSU Global. Having lived in Colorado for 22 years, she is a founding member and past president of the Western Slope Medical Managers Association and actively participates in several health care groups.

Since 2006, Winkelmann served as CEO of Colorado West Ophthalmology Associates in Montrose. Prior to that, she served as CEO of two nursing home organizations in Glenwood Springs and Montrose. Winkelmann, along with her husband Phillip and two children, have lived in Ridgway for 18 years.

“My passion for health care is about being able to provide affordable health care to everyone,” she said. “And being able to support the doctors and the staff here to enable them to do their jobs so they don’t have to worry about all the changes in the healthcare industry that you have to be up on. If I can do that part of it, then they can concentrate on taking care of patients.”

The search for a new CEO began last February with a board subcommittee narrowing a deep applicant field down to three finalists, according to Richard Betts, hospital district chairman.

Betts explained that the board ultimately chose Winkelmann because she has overseen various aspects of Western Slope health care administration including human resources, budgeting and finance, as well as new facility site acquisition and construction.

“She was also an unexpected find in that she was in our backyard, being a resident of Ridgway and heading a medical facility with locations in Montrose and Delta,” Betts said. “She and her family are avid skiers and have spent many hours in Telluride.”

Betts pointed out that the health care industry, like nearly every other industry, is confronted with tremendous changes and opportunities provided by technology advances.

“Short term, Karen will be evaluating and implementing these changes within our existing operation but with the goal of having them also be effective in our new permanent facility,” he said.

Winkelmann’s main goal as CEO is to be attentive to what patients need from health care providers.

“We are quickly moving towards a consumer-driven environment and TMC should be responding with greater transparency, convenience and customer care,” she said. “This includes not only our continued emphasis on being here for times of illness or traumatic injuries but also improving overall health and wellness. We will continue to build on our complementary and low-cost classes and educational events to help our residents live healthier and happier lives.”

Winkelmann has been getting to know TMC employees, as well as the larger Telluride community and has witnessed the ebbs and flows of the busy high season versus the quieter autumn shoulder season.

“The passion and commitment of the staff here is just unbelievable,” she said. “They enjoy their jobs. They educate the community too, like with the Mountain Mama program, they’re active in the community.”

In recent months, Winkelmann has helped TMC transition to a new electronic medical records system as she learns the ins and outs around the possibilities for locating and constructing a new facility.

“The staff has a big challenge working in such a small space and they pretty much use every single inch of this building to provide health care,” she said. “Moving forward, we are going to do a smaller space management re-model so that all of the providers can work together in pods and are able to communicate with each other really easily. But we’re only getting busier so we need to manage growth along with all the changes within the healthcare environment.”

Currently, the Telluride Hospital District is working to secure a 2.6-acre parcel of land at Society Turn with Genesee Properties Inc. for development of a new medical facility. Betts explained that Genesee Properties, a long-term land owner, has been working with the medical center board for over three years and has offered a donation of a tract of land to the medical center which he calls “an integral part of an overall plan for both the medical center parcel and the greater parcel owned by Genesee.”

The county PUD process involves five steps through the county planning commission and the Board of County Commissioners.

“The next step in the process, the PUD sketch application, is anticipated in the first quarter of 2020 and possibly as early as January,” Betts said.