BizWest: Estes Park ballot issue passes, may allow hospital to affiliate

by Dallas Heltzell

Voters in the Park Hospital District gave 83% approval Tuesday to Ballot Measure 8A, which enables the district’s board of directors to enter into a multiyear financial agreement if it decides to affiliate with a larger nonprofit health care services organization.

The measure, which passed 2,228 to 453, does not impose new taxes or increase the tax rate that residents pay to support the hospital district that serves the Estes Valley.

“This is a great day for Estes Park Health,” CEO Vern Carda said in a prepared statement. “This decision can help in securing quality health care for our community members and visitors to the Estes Valley for decades to come.”

The board of directors unanimously supported the ballot measure, citing access to capital needed to stay current with evolving medical technology, important access to larger payor networks, and opportunities for financial savings that could come with affiliation with a larger health-care organization.

Such an affiliation, Carda said, “will make a significant contribution toward safeguarding the availability of excellent health-care services to meet the Estes Valley community’s health-care needs for many years into the future by ensuring there will be reliable and quality referral networks in place to provide services that EPH does not currently provide.”

In an article  in BizWest’s May edition, Cards confirmed that the board has been in discussions with several major health care organizations to decide if affiliation with one of them could bring more advanced and varied medical care closer to home — and address some of those issues that have forced many rural hospitals to close. A nondisclosure agreement prevents the board from making the identities of those organizations public at this point.

“Many if not all rural hospitals will be forced to consider partnerships in the future,” Carda said. “We’re small. We don’t have a large volume. If we’re not in network, our patients would have to pay more.”

He said increases in salaries, inflation-driven costs and changes in health care’s budgeting model have forced small hospitals’ hands, and “we’ve got to get out ahead of all these things.”

The ballot measure passage is considered crucial for future negotiations, hospital officials agreed.

“Estes Park Health appreciates the support of the voters in the Estes Valley,” said board

chairman David Batey. “We believe the ‘yes’ vote is the right decision for the future of our


Tuesday’s ballot also gave voters a choice of six people who were running for three four-year terms on the EPH board of directors. Steve Alper was re-elected, and Cory Workman and Brigitte Foust will be new to the board. Workman was the top vote-getter with 1,753 votes, followed by Foust with 1,397 and Alper with 1,371. Former Estes Park Mayor Bill Pinkham received 947 votes, John Nardi got 682 and John Meissner 485.

The winners will be sworn in at the next board meeting, to be held May 15 at the Estes Park Town Hall meeting room.

Estes Park Health was founded in 1975 as the Elizabeth Knutsson Memorial Hospital, funded by a voter-approved tax subsidy.