2020 Rescue Fund supports expanded COVID-19 testing at AVH

July 2, 2020
2020 Rescue Fund supports expanded COVID-19 testing at Aspen Valley Hospital with $470,000 grant

As communities across the country work to safely reopen their economies, one critical element of nearly every plan involves readily available testing for COVID-19. Pitkin County is no exception.

The 2020 Rescue Fund at the Aspen Community Foundation has committed $470,000 to ensure testing is readily available to help the community get back on its feet.

“We wanted to get involved with testing, which is an essential part of any recovery plan for the city, the valley and the country,” explains Bob Hurst, one of three Aspen philanthropists who created the 2020 Rescue Fund and have so Quick read more or view full article far raised more than $5 million to support organizations throughout the region that are playing a critical role in our COVID-19 response.

The Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation (AVHF) received the grant on behalf of AVH, and the hospital is working with Pitkin County Public Health to ensure testing is available through the end of the year. Specifically, the testing will support management of viral outbreaks, and will provide additional funding to support PCR testing needs that are identified by Pitkin County Public Health officials as necessary to protect vulnerable and at-risk populations. All testing will be conducted by AVH.

“Testing is absolutely vital for people to understand whether they are sick or not sick and to have the confidence they need to function,” Hurst says. “The same holds for businesses that need to know their employees are healthy and safe, and to help them interact safely with their customers.”

The 2020 Rescue Fund was conceived by Hurst, Melony Lewis and Jerry Greenwald back in March, as communities around the world were shutting down their economies and directing people to stay home.

“We are thinking about how we can be of help to the community,” Hurst says. “In order to make this fund work, we needed to identify which organizations to support, how to do so efficiently and in a thoughtful way that directs funds where they are most needed.”

The 2020 Rescue Fund was established as a charitable fund at the Aspen Community Foundation and has so far distributed more than $2.4 million to 25 social service agencies that provide for health needs, food distribution, financial assistance, behavioral health, legal aid, and shelter and rent subsidies to individuals and families between Aspen and Parachute.
Through the grant to AVHF, the Fund expands its support network to help small businesses. “We wanted to get involved in testing, and we are looking at ways to provide meaningful support for small businesses as well,” Hurst says. “This is a good way to do both.”
Hurst credits the 106 donors who have given to the 2020 Rescue Fund for recognizing the need. “People have so much anxiety between the economic crisis, the health crisis, the social stresses that are occurring, so anything we can do to help relieve people’s anxiety is absolutely critical,” he said. Read Less
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AVH laboratory shines in COVID response as new director comes on board

June 30, 2020
Aspen Valley Hospital’s new Director of Laboratory Services, Mary Poskus-Fell (pictured), joins the AVH staff at a critical time. She is replacing Julie Mathias, who is retiring after 15 years at the lab, including the last five as director.
“I’ve been in a lot of labs over the last 35 years,” says Poskus-Fell, “and what I’ve noticed is that people working here really care about the job they are doing, the organization, our patients and each other.”
That team has been quietly fulfilling a key role in the community’s COVID-19 response. Under the leadership of Mathias, they’ve been working to administer and analyze results from the ever-evolving COVID-19 testing regime. They have Quick read more or view full article also provided the support and expertise needed to identify the most appropriate PCR and antibody tests to improve testing capabilities in Aspen.
“In the early days of the pandemic, we had to send specimens out to the state lab for processing and wait days to get a result back. That was just agony,” explains Mathias.
“The physicians we work with did a lot of research on the various tests that were becoming available — they deserve a lot of credit for resolving the situation,” she says.
Identifying the right tests was a daunting task at first. At one point there were 90 tests on the market, most without approval of any kind from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Eventually the FDA did give Emergency Use Authorization for a handful of tests, including the PCR test now used at Aspen Valley Hospital.
“As a clinical laboratory we have to follow strict guidelines — if it doesn’t have Emergency Use Authorization, I don’t want it in my lab,” Mathias explains.
Mathias also worked closely with her counterpart at Valley View Hospital, Jeanette Refior, to bring reliable testing to the Roaring Fork Valley.  “We worked collaboratively and shared our resources from the start,” Mathias says.
The AVH lab is now able to turn around test results in just a few hours. “We are doing rapid PCR testing at the hospital now, which determines if you are currently sick with COVID-19 and allows doctors and patients to make timely decisions about treatment. We also can test for antibodies in-house,” she says. All testing requires a physician referral and is conducted at the hospital’s Respiratory Evaluation Center.
New director and new location for the midvalley lab
Poskus-Fell is excited to lead a lab that is well equipped and staffed with people who are committed to their work. As the new director she will be overseeing 22 employees, including laboratory assistants who interface with patients and the medical technologists with expertise in hematology, microbiology and chemistry. They also work with the blood bank and help with point-of-care testing outside the hospital.
One of the first changes to occur since her arrival — and last before Mathias’ departure — is the relocation of the lab draw site in the midvalley from a space co-located with the After-Hours Medical Care clinic in Basalt to the Midvalley Health Institute building in Basalt, where Aspen Valley Primary Care is also located.
The new address of the midvalley lab is 1460 East Valley Road, Suite 264. “This new location is closer to providers and offers easier access for patients,” Mathias says.
Going forward, Poskus-Fell is particularly excited to work at AVH for a number of reasons. In addition to a professional staff, she’s impressed with AVH and its facilities. “There is a lot of great technology at AVH, especially for a critical access hospital of its size,” she says.
She is also eager about working in a community that focuses so intensely on wellness, which is reflected in everything from the recreational and athletic activities people participate in, to the healthy foods that are prepared each day in AVH’s Castle Creek Cafe. She points to patient satisfaction, which is exceptionally high at AVH (in the 92nd percentile of all hospitals nationwide for inpatient satisfaction), as another reason to be excited about working here.
Although Poskus-Fell will soon be managing employees, collaborating with other departments and overseeing a critical department at the hospital, she will also be analyzing test samples alongside her employees.
“In an environment as small as ours, we need to be able to jump in when needed,” she explained. “Both Julie and I still go ‘on the bench’,” she says.
For more information about the lab and its new location, call 970.544.1528.

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Carta abierta a la comunidad

June 26, 2020

A nuestra comunidad, 

Como profesionales de la salud y líderes en Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH), estamos escribiendo por dos razones: para hacer sonar la alarma de que el COVID-19 es una amenaza inmediata para nuestras vidas y nuestro bienestar, y para brindar ánimo ya que el destino de nuestra comunidad está en las manos de todos nosotros.

En las últimas dos semanas, hemos visto un fuerte aumento en el número de personas que buscan atención médica con síntomas similares al COVID y que se someten a pruebas. Esperábamos ver un aumento, pero la velocidad del cambio es angustiante. Es cierto que nos mantenemos "cómodos" por el número de pacientes en el hospital, pero esto no debería ser un consuelo. El ciclo de Quick read more or view full article vida del virus indicaría que las enfermedades severas seguirán con la etapa inicial de los síntomas entre 1 y 2 semanas. Consideramos que el aumento de visitas diarias, tiene un alto valor de predicción como un indicador temprano de lo que probablemente experimentaremos – un aumento de pacientes críticos, y posibles muertes. Es en ese momento que nuestra reapertura estará en riesgo. 

Pero este no tiene que ser nuestro destino. Nuestra hoja de las rutas de reapertura proporciona la solución. Es tan simple como mantener todos nosotros los cinco compromisos de contención, con el que ya estamos familiarizados: 6 pies de distanciamiento, higiene de manos, recubrimientos faciales, quedarse en casa y hacernos la prueba si no nos sentimos bien. No es difícil, y sin embargo, todos hemos caminado por nuestro pueblo observando a muchas personas en contacto cercano, en grupos y sin revestimientos faciales.

¡Por favor escuche nuestra súplica! Como comunidad, nosotros podemos ser un ejemplo para nuestros invitados y visitantes, creando una cultura que nos cuidemos los unos a los otros. Después de todo, de eso es lo que se trata el distanciamiento social y los revestimientos faciales. Podríamos estar protegiéndonos en el proceso, pero el mayor valor de nuestro cumplimiento es demostrar respeto y cuidando a los demás. Por favor ayúdenos a dar enviar 
un mensaje fuerte y claro a través de nuestras acciones de que usar revestimientos faciales y mantener nuestras distancias no solo se enfoca en nosotros mismos, sino también en los demás: aquellos que nos importan y aquellos que ni siquiera conocemos.
Esto se trata de salvar vidas. Usar revestimientos faciales, mantener al menos seis pies de separación, y evitar espacios confinados, conglomerados con poca ventilación, retrasarán la transmisión del virus. Esto nos permitirá continuar con la reapertura y restaurar nuestra economía vital, empleos y nuestro bienestar.

Antes de salir a cenar, a un evento social o al trabajo, esperamos que considere lo que puede hacer y así formar parte de una comunidad solidaria. Nuestras acciones hablarán más fuerte que nuestras palabras, y juntos podemos crear una cultura que sea evidente para todos los que la presencian e inspirar a otras comunidades como siempre lo ha hecho Aspen. Lo más importante, le demostraremos a cada persona con la que estamos o con quienes nos encontremos que los respetamos y nos preocupamos por su salud.

AVH continuará estando allí para todos los que nos necesiten. Y brindaremos atención médica extraordinaria en un ambiente de excelencia, compasión y confianza. Ustedes pueden contar con nosotros. ¿Podemos contar con ustedes que harán su parte de uno a otro, por su comunidad y por nuestro futuro?

Dave Ressler 
Director General, Aspen Valley Hospital 

Dr. Catherine Bernard 
Directora del personal médico, Aspen Valley Hospital
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An Open Letter To Our Community

June 26, 2020
Spanish Translation Available Here

To Our Community,

As healthcare professionals and leaders at Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH), we are writing to both sound the alarm that COVID-19 is an immediate threat to our lives and well-being, and to offer encouragement that our community’s fate rests firmly within our collective hands.

In the past two weeks, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of people seeking medical care for COVID-like symptoms and being tested. We expected to see an increase, but the velocity of the change is distressing. While it is true that we remain “comfortable” with regard to the number of patients in the hospital, this should not be reassuring. The lifecycle of the virus would indicate that Quick read more or view full article severely ill conditions will follow the initial onset of symptoms by 1-2 weeks. We consider the increase in daily visits to have a high predictive value as an early indicator of what we will likely experience—increased critically ill patients. And potential deaths. It is at that point our reopening will be at risk.

But this doesn’t have to be our fate. Our Roadmap to Reopening provides the solution. It is as simple as all of us maintaining the Five Commitments of Containment, with which we are all familiar by now: 6-foot distancing, hand hygiene, face coverings, and staying home and getting tested when we don’t feel well. It isn’t hard. And yet, we have all walked through our town and observed so many people in close contact, in groups and without face coverings.

Please hear our plea! As a community we can set an example for our guests and visitors, and create a culture of caring about one another. After all, that is what social distancing and face coverings are all about. We may be protecting ourselves in the process, but the greatest value of our compliance is the demonstration of respect and caring for others. Please help us send a loud and clear message through our actions that wearing face coverings and keeping our distances are not about ourselves, but about each other — those we care about and those we don’t even know. This is about saving lives. Maintaining face coverings and at least six feet of separation, and avoiding confined, crowded spaces with poor ventilation, will slow the transmission of the virus. That will allow us to continue to reopen and restore our vital economy, jobs and our well-being.

Before you head out to dinner, or a social event, or to work, we hope you will consider what you can do to
be part of a caring community.
Our actions will speak louder than our words, and together we can create a culture that is apparent to all who witness it, and inspire other communities as Aspen has always done. Most importantly, we will signal to each person we are with or who we encounter, that we respect them, and we care about their health.

AVH will continue to be there for all who need us. And we will provide extraordinary healthcare in an environment of excellence, compassion and trust. You can count on us. Can we count on you to do your part for one another, for your community, and for our future?
Dave Ressler
CEO, Aspen Valley Hospital
Dr. Catherine Bernard
Chief of Staff, Aspen Valley Hospital Read Less
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COVID Update & Five Commitments | A Message from CEO Dave Ressler

June 1, 2020

This is a pivotal time for our community.
In our continued battle against COVID-19, together we have gained ground recently as many of our local services are carefully reopening, including our restaurants and our hotels at 50% capacity, in keeping with the Pitkin County Roadmap to Reopening plan.
This is good and hopeful news for our community, which has sustained significant economic, social and emotional effects of COVID-19 and (for some) deadly consequences. We are able to take this important step forward because, together, we have upheld our Five Commitments to Containment and will continue to cover our faces when in public spaces, maintain our social distancing, wash our hands frequently, Quick read more or view full article and get tested when we have symptoms, and then stay at home. For more information, check out the newly-launched Pitkin County Response and Recovery Website.
For our part, Aspen Valley Hospital is providing the COVID testing for those who are referred by their primary care physicians with symptoms, without any cost after insurance. This past week, we also rolled out our communications tool, called the AVH Capacity Matrix, which provides the Hospital’s real-time status to the community. You can find it on the Pitkin County COVID-19 Stats webpage. This is important information for our community to have readily available, because it will indicate if the virus spread is becoming a problem again, for Aspen Valley Hospital and for our community’s safety. Public Health is also relying on this information, along with other metrics, to determine when it is safe to keep advancing along the roadmap, or when we need to pause or take a step back.
Meanwhile, our patients who need us continue to receive our safe and special brand of extraordinary care. Since we reopened to elective and other non-urgent services on May 1, we have been providing care to the many in our community who were waiting for essential in-person care – such as surgeries, procedures, doctor visits, studies, consultations and therapies. Thanks to our staff and physicians, these services are being delivered in a safe environment that continues to protect us and our patients from the virus. We want to assure our community and our patients that it is safe to return to AVH and our off-site locations when they need our care. That is, after all, why we are here.
Thank you again for playing your part, as a community that cares, in getting us to this point where we are cautiously moving forward as a hospital and a community to safely restore our lives and our economy. If we work together, along with our guests and visitors, we can continue to move forward with the County’s plan for reopening.
I am proud to be a part of the AVH organization that has provided the first line of defense against this virus, and I wouldn’t want to be living in any other community than ours.

Dave Ressler

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