|Dr. Jeffrey Hansen stands in front of the new Eastern Utah Surgical Center that he owns near Castleview Hospital.|
Health care across the nation is changing rapidly and in big ways all over the board. Nearly everyone realizes that almost daily new technological advances are introduced in one medical field or another. New drug therapies seem to come to the public and physicians alike in droves and it is becoming harder and harder for doctors to keep up with all the new techniques that are being developed.
But, maybe the biggest change is coming in how health care is delivered. The days of just visiting the doctor's office for a general checkup and then being referred to a hospital for tests has changed. Many offices now offer tests that not long ago one could only get at the hospital lab.
However, other than that, one of the biggest trends is the construction of "specialty hospitals" that either specialize in certain types of treatment or in certain kinds of surgery. Many hospitals in major cities are concerned that these types of facilities, along with new surgical centers, are stealing away business that keeps their profit margins in the black and covers big losses. Many incur in places like emergency rooms.
The trend continues, with specialty hospitals and traditional hospitals working for legislation and advantages to keep their side of the competition in front.
With the opening of the new Eastern Utah Surgical Center in Price, some people are asking if that trend is happening here. But if one asks Dr. Jeffrey Hansen, the owner of the new center, he doesn't see it that way at all.
"I have been here eight years and I have watched as patients continually left town to go over the mountain to have surgery," he said in an interview on Wednesday morning. "Certainly, as a resident of Carbon County, I am concerned about economic development. One way to help that development is to keep money from flowing out of the community."
The idea of the new center is not really new, according to Hansen. In fact there were a number of attempts to do a similar project in the past few years.
"This idea has been stewing for several years," he noted. "There were some group attempts and I was involved in some of those, but for one reason or another they just didn't work out. "
After the last attempt failed in the middle of 2001, Hansen decided to go it alone. By December of that year he says he "got serious" about it, bought the property from the previous owner and began to scour the state looking at other surgical centers to be sure he got it right when it was constructed.
The center sits within the Price City limits, but the county line is nearby and that presented some challenges in terms of zoning, utilities and the nearby street. But finally everything was in place and the economics of the thing started to make sense.
"I couldn't have done it without Delynn Fielding," he said of the counties economic director. "He helped immeasurably with getting this thing off the ground."
Hansen, an opthamologist by training, thought that doctors throughout the area might like a facility that would not only work as an out-patient facility, but also as an overnight stay health care unit.
|Dr. Hansen works with some of the new equipment at the center. The equipment shown here costs as much as a small house.|
A tour of the facility points out some real advantages, particularly for those that have traditionally gone for surgical procedures in Utah and Salt Lake counties.
"People can come here, have their procedures done and be home in a few minutes," said Hansen, who hails from Monterey, Calif., but whose roots run deep in Utah. His parents were both from Cache County.
The center looks like a mini-hospital with the latest technology displayed almost everywhere. Surgery prep rooms, standard recovery rooms and even an area for recovery where a patient can sit in a soft lounge chair and have something to eat is provided.
The center features three operating rooms, one of which is fully functional right now.
"It's an expensive proposition setting up all this equipment," said Hansen as he pointed to machines in the OR that cost over $15,000 each. "That's what it takes to equip these operating rooms correctly."
The fact is that many small communities would love to have a hospital that is as nice and equipped as this surgical center. For a rural area like Carbon/Emery counties to have a facility like this to go along with Castleview Hospital is unknown, at least in Utah.
"I know of no other surgical center like this in a area with as small a population as this in Utah," Hansen stated.
The overall feel of most of the non-operational areas seems homey and comfortable. It is very different from tradtional health care facilities of the same type.
Hansen, who is still on Castleview's staff, realizes that his new endeavor might affect the hospital, but he thinks what it will affect more is the money that is going over the hill.
"I see it this way," he stated as he sat in the plush waiting room right off the portico of the building. "First we are giving patients a choice, between us, the hospital and going to the Wasatch Front. Next, we can do some things less expensively than our competition, which will benefit patients. I also feel good that we are creating jobs here and I am trying very hard to buy everything we can from local suppliers rather than getting what we need from other places."
The building itself is divided into two halves with Hansen's office and practice in one side and the surgical center on the other side.
"I wanted to build a building Price could be proud of," he stated as he stood on the hill just outside of the building that overlooks Price. "We turned it so the front would face the city and our neighbors across the street wouldn't be looking at a big parking lot. Look at the view; you can't beat that anywhere."
It's obvious the new center offers some challenges to Hansen and his staff, but it also offers competition that has not been seen in the area before.
And for the consumer of health care services in Castle Country, that is a good thing.