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Boulder Community Hospital Undertakes Expansion


Boulder Community Hospital has embarked on a $125 million, 10-year expansion plan. KUNC’s Erin O’Toole talks with Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood about the project and what it will mean for health care in Boulder.

O’Toole: Chris, Boulder Community unveiled its expansion plans almost a year ago. Those plans are expected to take something close to a decade to be fully implemented, but what is the status of the plans today?

Wood:Well, the plans are rapidly proceeding, Erin, but it will take many years for the full effects to be felt on Boulder Community’s facilities and patients. Dirt is being already being moved at the hospital’s east campus at Foothills Parkway and Arapahoe Avenue. That’s where many operations now housed at the main hospital on Broadway in northwest Boulder will move.

Workers will lay pipe and expand an existing parking lot beginning in November, with a new building opening up late next year.

In a nutshell, the Foothills hospital will become the main facility, with inpatient acute-care services. The Foothills facility will expand by 100,000 square feet of clinical space, along with added medical office space. Outpatient services will be centralized at the current hospital on Broadway, along with inpatient care for physical-rehab and behavioral-health patients who require an overnight stay.

Most of those rehab functions are now housed at the former Boulder Memorial Hospital on Mapleton Avenue. What becomes of that facility is still to be determined.

O’Toole: These sound like pretty monumental plans, affecting three major facilities. What’s driving these moves, and what impact will be felt by patients?

Wood:Boulder Community executives say that one of the biggest changes will be in improved access for critical services. It’s a lot easier to get to the Foothills campus than it is the current hospital, which is located in a congested part of the city. So ambulances should have shorter travel times.

Additionally, the expansion inherently means facilities that are more modern, helping to improve patient care. And physicians no longer will have to provide services at two facilities.

One other driver is health-care reform. Hospital officials are expecting more emphasis on prevention, senior care, field nursing and rehabilitation, as pressure increases to keep people out of the hospital.

O’Toole: We’ve seen new hospitals built in the region in recent years. It seems that when that happens, it has an effect on other medical providers, and the real estate market as well. Are we seeing some of those effects with this project?

Wood:We certainly are. Some of that is being driven by Boulder Community itself. Just across the street from the Foothills campus sits the Riverbend office park, consisting of a dozen buildings. Boulder Community has purchased or put under contract seven of those 12 buildings. The hospital says it has no definite plan for the properties, but that, in general, they’ll likely be used for doctors’ offices and ancillary hospital services.

Additionally, the city is exploring whether any zoning changes need to be made in other areas around the new hospital, to possibly allow for more medical uses.

O’Toole: You mentioned that hospital officials haven’t determined what to do with the old Boulder Memorial Hospital on Mapleton when rehab functions are moved to the Broadway building. What are some ideas being floated for the Mapleton campus?

Wood:It’s a big question, and one that officials have described as the third phase, after opening the new hospital and shifting rehab operations to the Broadway facility. A hospital official told us the Boulder Community has been approached by some individuals regarding development plans for Mapleton. One possibility would be that the hospital would form a joint venture with another, as-yet-undetermined medical provider, or that Boulder Community will use it for some other purpose.

O’Toole: So, how big an economic impact does Boulder Community have on the city?

Wood:Well, any hospital has a significant impact on the economy. The Boulder County Business Report ranks Boulder Community as the area’s fifth-largest employer, with almost 1,700 employees. When you look at the facilities in Boulder, and add in other facilities in other communities, such as Lafayette, Broomfield and Longmont, you get a feel for how big an impact it has, not only in Boulder but also in the region overall.

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