PMC board approves $7.7 million expansion of orthopedic program

The PMC board of directors voted to purchase the Mako Total Knee Robotic-Arm to assist in knee surgeries as part of its vision for orthopedic excellence and advancement for the Western Slope. COURTESY PHOTO

MEEKER | The primary emphasis of the Nov. 27 Pioneers Medical Center board meeting was the future vision held by both staff and board in the areas of orthopedics as well as hospital expansion.
In preparation for that discussion, Development Director Margie Joy outlined PMC’s Strategic Plan for 2019–2022, elaborating on five focus areas: quality (excelling in all we do); finance (breaking even in 2020); growth (meeting the needs of local healthcare, such as orthopedics); people (being a premiere employer); and community (being a leader in public health concerns, such as tobacco, alcohol, suicide prevention, etc.).
Also presented was the 2019 budget with projected revenues of $30.313 million and projected operating expenses of $26.633 million. The projected revenues are actually a 20.6 percent increase driven mainly by orthopedic surgeries. After other factors are figured in, the net projected income is $2.706 million.
The meeting then turned to the future vision.
Meeker’s own Dr. Kevin Borchard—a highly acclaimed, board certified (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons) orthopedic surgeon—was on hand to propose the purchase of the Mako Total Knee Robotic-Arm to assist in knee surgeries. This $1 million piece of technology guarantees greater accuracy and precision in planning and performing knee replacement than manual technique. It also replaces several other surgical instruments and makes the job much easier for the surgeon and assistants.
While there are currently three locations on the Western Slope that have robotic surgery, none of them have joint fellowship-trained surgeons such as Dr. Borchard (and Dr. Dan Ward). “This, coupled with zero percent infection rate, low remission rate and short length of stay (in the hospital), would make Pioneers probably the top place on the Western Slope to get a joint replacement,” Borchard said.
This discussion then led to another need this robotic advancement and patient increase will demand, namely, building expansion. Joy elaborated on this by presenting three options. The most practical and cost effective one is option two, an approximately $7.7 million expansion that will add two operating rooms, three recovery rooms, six hospital rooms and additional clinic space.
This would also require additional staff, including: another orthopedic surgeon, a certified RN anesthetist, a physician assistant, a surgery tech, two hospital RNs, physical therapy assistant and two clinic assistants.
Joy went on to demonstrate that such expansion is justifiable because the opportunities in ortho care are not only already significant but rising. Due to several factors—an increase in bone disease, more sports injuries and complications from obesity—one in seven Americans suffer from an orthopedic impairment.
She went on to report that the average age of ortho patients is 66 years-old. With the population of Rio Blanco County expected to reach 7,000 by 2020—27 percent of whom will be 40–59 and 15 percent will be 60–79—potential patients will be 1,890 and 1,050 respectively. Further, PMC is already treating patents from outside our county.
The board was pleased with what it heard. Two motions were made: one to approve the purchase of the Mako robot with a cost of up to $1.1 million and the second to allow the executive team to start the process of the building expansion by securing an architect at the cost of $100,000–200,000.
Both motions were made, seconded and passed, launching a staggering expansion of PMC.

By DOC WATSON | Special to the Herald Times