Horse-drawn carriages brought the sick and injured to the Denver Health Medical Center some 142 years ago.
Now Denver voters will decide if the hospital will receive a $148 million to continue its mission of helping people.
Voters will decide May 6 on a bond issue that will cost the average Denver homeowner $33 dollars a year in extra property taxes. The money will go to renovate the aging hospital and maintain the ability to deliver services.
"We are looking for the City of Denver voters to approve Phase II, which will enable us then by 2006 when we know we are really going to need this increased capacity we’ll have it at this time," Denver Health Chief Communications Officer Bobbi Barrow said.
Denver Health employs 4,100 employees and is one of the largest public employers in metro Denver. The system’s payroll is $192 million and has spent $326 million in the Colorado economy.
The need for expansion seems to be great. The Denver metro area has lost nearly 1,000 beds since 1988, while Denver’s population has risen 18 percent. National studies have shown that the demand for hospital beds is expected to jump 46 percent in 25 years.
Denver Health’s patient volume alone is expected to increase 15 to 25 percent in the next 10 years, most of it within five years.
Last year the system’s 911 operations handled 66,000 calls, an increase of five percent a year for the past five years.
Denver Health Paramedics handle 99 percent of all 911 calls.
The hospital had 51,400 emergency room visits and 72,5000 urgent care clinic visits a year ago.
Nearly 3,500 people received care for trauma, making it the busiest trauma center in the Rocky Mountain Region. The hospital’s trauma survival rate is 95 percent.
Denver Health’s Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center handled 150,000 calls, 46 percent of those child-related.
The hospital is also the home to the Rocky Mountain Regional Center for the Medical Response to Terrorism, Mass Casualties and Epidemics.
The hospital also serves as a safety net for the community. Medicare visits have increased 33 percent since 1999 when other physicians may not be able to accept Medicare patients.
Denver Health has provided $1.4 billion in care to the uninsured in the last decade with more than $200 million of that coming in 2001.
Forty-two percent of Denver Health’s patient activity is for the uninsured. The average at some other metro hospitals is 4.3 percent
Eighty-six percent of the children Denver Health treats are uninsured or on Medicaid. Denver Health has only six percent of the hospital beds in the metro area, but provides 40 percent of all the care to the uninsured.
More than one in four of Denver’s 160,000 residents receives care at the health system.
When the hospital became an authority in 1997, it borrowed $142 million in investment grade bonds. That paid for the current western edition project that will be open in June.
The Phase I construction will bring the hospital new ICUs, new single bed rooms and the old four-bed rooms will be renovated.
"Our nurses are very, very committed to our mission here and we are looking forward to having this wonderful new space," Barrow said. "With the exception of some renovations we haven’t had a new building since 1969. It’s very important for us to have this new facility."
The proposed expansion would add 242,000 square feet to the hospital and increase capacity from 311 beds to 450.