UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital continues to offer more patient beds and medical programs as the population of Douglas County grows.
The hospital celebrated the opening of a six-bed medical surgical unit on June 6. Hospital nurses happily cut the ribbon in preparation for patients to be transferred to the new beds.
Roxanne Hansen, vice president of hospital operations, said while the pandemic put increased stress on local hospitals, COVID-19 may have helped residents realize the Highlands Ranch hospital exists.
The hospital, which opened in 2019, provided a variety of testing procedures for the pandemic. The facility offered COVID testing and antibody testing.
“With all that added traffic coming through, I think it increased our visibility and highlighted that there is a hospital in the local community,” Hansen said. “When vaccinations became available for teenagers, we had so many people coming through it looked like a middle school.”
Hansen said with increased visibility and the continued population growth in Douglas County, the hospital expanded with the construction on the new unit in January.
The beds in the new medical surgical unit are located on the hospital's fourth floor. These beds are intended for patients needing routine care instead of emergency or intensive care treatment.
Prior to opening the new unit, Hansen said some non-emergency patients had to use beds in the postpartum area on occasion to meet needs.
Hansen said after celebrating with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 6, all six beds were in use less than 24 hours later.
“It was really exciting to get the unit opened and beds in use,” Hansen said. “We had been taking bets on when they would be filled. Not sure we expected it to be less than a day. This speaks to the growing need to continue serving the community's needs.”
In total, UCHealth Highlands Ranch has been operating as an 87-bed hospital. Hansen said it will move up to being a 90-bed facility this year as the licensing process continues.
Given how quickly the fourth-floor beds were taken, Hansen said the next steps for growth is to look at the fifth floor and start planning for another round of expansions.
“It all comes down to timing and the ability to grow a hospital with a growing community,” Hansen said. “The community knows we are here now, and we are here to meet health-care needs.”
Besides the new unit, the Highlands Ranch hospital has also added beds to serve patients in the neurology and epilepsy ward.
Dr. Brandon Pope, the hospital's neuroscience chief and stroke medical director, said the additional beds meet a need for serving patients who are having neurological episodes or seizures for unknown reasons. The beds will be utilized to conduct more testing.
“These services are part of a unique unit that you usually see at the larger hospitals,” Pope said. “We can now take these patients who are having spells of an unknown origin and watch them for three to five days.”
Before, patients had to travel outside the community to other medical facilities in Denver or Aurora.
For patients having seizures in cases where medication and other treatment has not worked, Pope said Highlands Ranch doctors now have the space to work toward finding an actual cause.
When it comes to patients experiencing seizures, Pope said it is important to pinpoint the cause quickly. In Colorado, a person who has a seizure is not allowed to drive for three months.
“Having a local program available to accelerate diagnosis and get a treatment plan in place is vital,” Pope said. “The need is there. As soon as we fully opened after the pandemic, these beds have been full every single week.”
To date, Pope said the beds are continually being utilized, requiring the hospital to very skillfully schedule appointments. Instead of just six patients a week, Pope said hospital staff is working to discharge and admit appropriately to allow doctors to treat up to 10 patients per week.
For future growth, Pope said the hospital will be working to create more surgical services in the neurology department.
Pope said UCHealth also continues to place a priority on treating stroke victims. Those services have expanded steadily since the Highlands Ranch hospital opened in 2019, he said.
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