Hospital adds programs, raises funds, makes plans

Though still in its infancy, Pagosa Mountain Hospital (PMH) held its second open house Sept. 18, during which CEO Brad Cochennet spoke of key hospital developments and a vision for the future of community healthcare.

Cochennet’s comments reflected significant progress since the facility’s inception just nine months ago, but they also proved fodder for what could come to pass, given continued communal support.

As Cochennet addressed charitable donors, medical foundation directors, health district officials, hospital staff and members of the public, he first expressed heartfelt gratitude for the generosity, insight, dedication and hard work that has delivered PMH from the drawing board to reality.

Next, he described a newly-established management agreement with Durango’s Mercy Regional Medical Center, calling it, “a long-term relationship built on trust and service to help us succeed.”

He talked of recent success in obtaining a grant, donations and other necessary funding for the purchase of a $500,000 x-ray system and electronic connectivity. Once the actual equipment is selected and installed — hopefully by year’s end — the PMH x-ray suite will be complete, allowing technicians to more effectively capture and transmit quality digital x-rays.

In just the past month, the attached Dr. Mary Fisher Medical Center has been cleaned and fully refurbished, while swing-bed patients have received extended care.

Swing-bed patients are those spending one or more nights in the hospital, after spending at least three midnight stays at another acute care facility, such as Mercy. Often, they are local patients recovering from specialized treatment or surgical procedures received elsewhere, but who still require continued monitoring and attention.

To complement swing-bed care, Cochennet has negotiated arrangements with nearby Rocky Mountain Physical Therapy & Sports Injury Center to bring a physical therapist to the hospital. Many times, patients recovering from sports injuries or surgery require forms of physical rehabilitation that only a professional trainer can provide.

At the open house, Cochennet also told listeners that basic surgical procedures would likely begin by year’s end, and funding for necessary equipment is on hand. The hospital has two state-of-the-art surgical suites.

The Upper San Juan Health Service District Board of Directors has also approved funding for an $80,000 Pyxis drug dispensing machine, and once negotiations with the manufacturer are final, it will be installed. This will enable greater security and more efficient dispensation of controlled medications.

After emphasizing recent achievements, Cochennet turned to a call to arms, suggesting citizens band together as a community and “take care of our own.”

“Open less than a year, we have much to celebrate in our success,” he said, citing the service to nearly 5,000 patients, so far.

After repeating an 1800s local quote about taking care of our own, he said, “Frankly, my vision for healthcare for our community is the same — 130 years later. In the light of a broken national healthcare system, the only solution that makes sense to me is to solve our problems at the local level with as much talent, treasure and vigor as possible. There isn’t enough federal or state money around to treat all the people today with conventional methods and we certainly won’t be able to tomorrow.”

Cochennet went on about the current system and how it forces us to practice defensive medicine, or “sick care,” rather than healthcare.

He mentioned superior systems in some third-world countries, and compared the ready availability of information about the inner workings of his automobile to the “obstacle course of relationships and financial issues” we must endure to determine what our blood pressure, PSA reading, cholesterol levels or heart rate might be.

Cochennet continued by suggesting we develop an offensive attitude, alluding to an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.

“If we ever want to have a nation that has a healthcare system that provides quality defensive medicine when we are sick,” he added, “we must have a personal commitment to an offense of our own that falls under ‘we shall take care of our own.’”

With that, Cochennet urged an approach to early detection by adding vital diagnostic equipment, more furniture, computers and other essentials to the former Dr. Mary Fisher Medical Center space. He suggested attracting specialists and other healthcare providers to the hospital campus and improving the hospital’s connectivity to the outside world.

Of course, as the hospital steadily moves in these directions, continued funding and volunteer participation are crucial to any success. With that in mind, Cochennet asked all to visit again and explore ways to personally assist in enhancing our local healthcare system.

He invited everyone to stop for lunch and enjoy the hospital’s fine and affordable food service, then mentioned it being an enterprise zone, where every dollar donated provides a 25 percent state tax credit.

He further reminded potential donors that all charitable contributions are federally tax deductible, and assured them the Dr. Mary Fisher Medical Foundation would happily receive and manage benevolent gifts accordingly.

Indeed, Pagosa Mountain Hospital has made great strides in recent months, as services and associated revenues steadily increase. Nevertheless, as Cochennet reminds us, there is much to do, before the local healthcare system takes an offensive stand against ever-rising “sick care” costs.

Cochennet’s is a vision for the future, and he insists Pagosa Mountain Hospital will be around for a very long time.

chuck@pagosasun.com