Fruita hospital plans new location at Choice Hotels site

Another area hospital has entered the fray over health care market share by announcing plans to expand in Fruita and on Orchard Mesa.

Family Health West confirmed last week it purchased for an undisclosed amount the former headquarters of Choice Hotels International, a 14,000-square-foot building located at 2697 U.S. Highway 50 on Orchard Mesa.

The 16-bed hospital located in Fruita is now considering how best to offer medical services at the Orchard Mesa location for people who reside at the outer reaches of Mesa County, said Angelina Salazar, hospital director of marketing.

“Currently, there are no medical facilities located in that area,” Salazar said. “People have to drive into town — not that it’s far away. But still, it’s a part of our county that doesn’t have the proximity to medical care that people in Fruita and Grand Junction-proper already enjoy.”

Family Health West is considering launching a radiology practice in the newly purchased building and perhaps a lab. This would enable Orchard Mesa residents to obtain blood tests and X-rays closer to home, she said.

A primary care practice is also possible, Salazar said.

“These are just ideas at this point,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Fruita City Council has granted an open-ended amendment to the conditional-use permit the Lower Valley’s sole hospital relies on to operate. 

It gives Family Health West much more freedom to expand operations as needed in the future, City Manager Clint Kinney said.

There was general agreement that 16-bed Family Health West is working at capacity and will need to expand soon. It should be allowed to do so without further review by the Fruita Planning Commission or City Council, Kinney said.

“We feel — especially in the Lower Valley — there has been lot of financial growth in last five, 10 years,” Salazar said. “In Fruita, we have already reached capacity. So we know we’re going to have to expand here. In addition, we’re looking at the periphery of Mesa County, places like Orchard Mesa and Clifton.”

On the recommendation of the Fruita Planning Commission and city staff, the City Council voted unanimously to amend the hospital’s conditional-use permit one final time. There were no recorded objections to the amendment, officials said.

The original permit approved to build the new hospital was granted in 2007. Normally, a conditional-use permit must be amended every time a change in use is proposed, officials said.

Last week’s vote means Family Health West may continue to expand onto land it currently controls “without the need for public hearings for (any) new construction, including minor construction,” the permit states.

“We treated their request just like any other commercial project,” Kinney said.

A 5,000-square-foot women’s health clinic is under construction on the hospital’s south side, and plans are in the making to add as much as 45,000 square feet to the building at 300 Ottley Ave., Salazar said.

The health center “is an example of the types of expansion that could happen in the future,” a city staff report said.

A health-needs assessment conducted last year and continued economic growth in Fruita and other parts of the Lower Valley means Family Health West needs to expand soon, Salazar said.

“We would like to increase patient beds up to 20 or 25,” she said. “These are ideas we are exploring. We know that we need to add more beds.”

Family Health West also plans to expand its emergency department, which will soon receive a more advanced designation certifying its ability to treat a broader range of patients, she said.

The hospital also wants more medical offices for physicians and physician specialties, Salazar said.

Although a design firm has been hired, Salazar declined to disclose how much the hospital has spent so far or how much it plans to spend in total on the project. She also declined to specify deadlines for the proposed expansion.

“We don’t have an exact number on how much we are going to spend at this time or on when the construction will be started,” she said. “We’re working through the permitting process now.”

Future construction by the hospital must be accomplished according to commercial zone level one design standards and must undergo the standard design review process. Those processes, however, do not require public hearings, city officials said.

Like the women’s health clinic, future additions to Family Health West must be compatible with the hospital’s existing architectural style, according to the amended permit.

Impacts of expansion on a nearby elementary school and residential neighborhood did not outweigh the benefits of expansion, the city staff report said.

Despite an expected increased in motor-vehicle traffic in the area, the hospital will not be required to pay impact fees for future expansion on the property it currently owns, officials said.


COMMENTS

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This is very good news for Orchard Mesa residents.  We still need an urgent care facility here, however.

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