Apparently the economy here in Colorado is doing better than a lot of the rest of the country, particularly in terms of hospital revenue and growth. I was surprised to read that four major hospitals in the Denver area are planning expansions and new buildings over the next few years, at a total cost of about $2 billion.
A few years ago, University Hospital moved from Denver to Aurora, and the move was obviously a good one: University Hospital’s revenue increased by a whopping 57% from 2007 to 2009, and the hospital is going to be able to complete it’s $420 million expansion project without taking on any additional debt. Other hospitals that are expanding or moving into new facilities include Children’s Hospital, Exempla St. Joseph, and St. Anthony Central. The projects will add several hundred hospital beds to the Denver area, and will also include expanded room for outpatient treatment, doctors’ offices, and new medical equipment.
It is nice to see signs of economic recovery. And additional hospital beds, outpatient facilities and medical offices will help to expand access to care as the provisions of the ACA kick in and more people become insured. But I hope that the hospital renovation and building projects are kept somewhat modest, so that health care dollars can be spent primarily on providing care rather than purchasing expensive decor. I also hope that we don’t end up overdoing things in terms of how many high tech medical facilities we really need in the Denver metro area. I understand that each hospital needs to bring in enough money to pay staff, maintain the facilities, and – in the case of for-profit hospitals – make a profit for shareholders. But overall healthcare costs aren’t helped by duplication of facilities and high-tech medical gadgets. There has to be a balance between providing the excellent medical care, keeping things at least somewhat convenient for patients, and keeping medical costs under control.
Hopefully the hospital expansion projects in the Denver area will result in increased access to care without higher per-capita medical costs.