SLV Health: independent and unique
ALAMOSA — A 2023 study confirms the economic contributions San Luis Valley Health makes to the region. The Alamosa-based healthcare provider, along with five other independent Prospective Payment System (PPS) hospitals located in the western part of the state, partnered with the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado to complete an Economic Impact Study.
A Prospective Payment System is a method of reimbursement in which Medicare payment is made on a predetermined, fixed amount.
All six of the participating hospitals are part of Western Hospital Alliance, an organization serving 31 hospitals primarily across Colorado.
The six surveyed are a unique subset as they are private, not-for-profit, independent PPS hospitals not affiliated with or owned by a larger healthcare system such as UC Health or others.
The importance of being independent
Being an independent hospital has distinct advantages for a community over being part of a system, SLV Health CEO Konnie Martin says. Most notably, larger healthcare systems often take jobs out of a community, such as billing or IT.
“As many as 30 to 40 percent of jobs may be performed outside of the community when a hospital is part of a larger system,” she says. “Our goal is to keep those jobs local, to hire local people and keep those jobs in the local marketplace. Part of this study was to quantify that — to measure what does an independent hospital contribute to the local economy by keeping those jobs local and working with local businesses? We’re not good at telling our own story. We wanted to communicate what kind of economic impact does a hospital like ours have?”
With the results of the survey now known, the data confirms what many already believed to be true.
SLV Health is a major economic engine with a strong direct impact on the economy– hiring employees, purchasing supplies from other businesses, making capital investments in the community. It also has a strong indirect impact in bolstering the prosperity of other businesses in the community when patients leave the hospital, such as accessing an oxygen company or a pharmacy. It also has a strong induced effect — a longer term impact permeating throughout the local economy via the income of those who are employed.
As noteworthy as the following numbers are, they don’t tell the entire story. “What comes in and out of our major hospital SLV Regional Medical Center in Alamosa” was the only area included in the survey, Martin says. SLV Health has a larger footprint in the valley with other facilities, including Conejos County Hospital in La Jara and clinics in Alamosa, Monte Vista, and Antonito. Their economic impact wasn’t included.
Show me the data
In 2022, SLV Health employed 957 staff members, including both full and part time staff. Of those staff, approximately 72% lived in Alamosa, followed by Conejos County (9.3%), Rio Grande County (8.6%), Costilla County (5.5%), and Saguache County (4.6%).
During that same year, employing those 957 staff members generated $70 million in labor income — income spent on local utilities, at the local gas station and grocery store, at a local restaurant or coffee shop or retail establishment or donated to local causes or charities.
In 2022, SLV Health’s total economic output was $168 million. That $168 million was comprised of $110.1 million in direct spending, $21 million in indirect impact stemming from the supply chain, and $36.8 million in induced impact related to spending by households. Every $1 spent directly within San Luis Valley Health produced an overall economic impact of approximately $1.53.
Independent AND unique
In speaking about SLV Health, Martin focuses on the economic impact of the organization, but she is equally passionate about its uniqueness, including the quality of professionals they hire and the array of services they offer to their patient population. Both, in some cases, rival what’s available on the Front Range.
“At San Luis Valley Health, we’re a Level III Trauma Center, which means we do surgeries. We have 24/7 orthopedic care. We have specialty care, and we hire board certified emergency care doctors. To get the level of care we provide here, the next comparable facility is 120 miles in any direction.
“A patient could get a lot of services we provide in a hospital fifty or sixty miles away. But for some of the really higher-level care, the next comparable facility is in Durango, Pueblo or Santa Fe. That same thing can also be said of the other five PPS independent hospitals that were surveyed.”
As an example of how that uniqueness is especially relevant to patients’ lives and the communities where they live, Martin describes what would happen if, for example, SLV Health didn’t provide surgery.
“If we shipped everybody out to do surgery, our impact would be way, way less than what it is today. We would employ fewer staff and bill less services and all of those benefits would go to another community. That’s not even mentioning the impact on patients and their families who would have to travel 150 miles away for health care. That impacts healing and adds significant expense for the family.”
While researchers and hospital administrators can speak with expertise about the importance of independent hospitals and the uniqueness of SLV Health, nothing can compare with the stories of people whose lives were changed by the presence of SLV Health in the valley.
There’s Tom Simpson, a hunter from Tularosa, New Mexico whose gun “blew up and shredded the tips of my fingers and injured the palm of my hand and thumb.” He credits Angela, the Nurse Practitioner at SLVRMC Emergency Room, for her exemplary job stitching his fingers both inside and out and “the feeling and movement that I have today” – something he “could not even imagine would happen.”
Vivian Jones of Blanca realized something was wrong last year when she couldn’t catch her breath. A visit to SLV Health Regional Medical Center revealed she had a clogged artery and needed heart surgery to save her life. Now, thanks to the cardiac rehabilitation team — especially exercise physiologist Michell Crowther at SLV Health Regional Medical Center — Jones is on the road to recovery.
Aryana Lopez had experienced four miscarriages, and, during her fifth pregnancy, her fallopian tube ruptured. Refusing to give up, she and her husband, Kyle, became pregnant again, choosing Stephanie Posorske, Certified Nurse Midwife at San Luis Valley Health Women’s Health Clinic in Alamosa, as their primary care provider.
This was in the midst of COVID, and it was not an easy time to navigate pregnancy. Developing a relationship based on trust would be crucial.
“Steph is so awesome, she was with me every step of the way. She was so supportive. She returned my calls. She eased my worries. She was a Godsend, being so personable and caring. She basically held my hand through my whole pregnancy, except when she left for her own maternity leave.”
These are just a sampling of the stories posted on SLV Health’s website and shared, in person, by patients.
Konnie Martin said she hoped the survey would help SLV Health tell their story. As the survey results, the unique aspects of the organization and patient experiences suggest, it’s a story that is worth telling.
To view the Economic Impact Survey in its totality, go to: