Kremmling Hospital opens new doors

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by Marissa Lorenz
For those who have been in the area for more than a while, walking into the new Middle Park Health Hospital in Kremmling may seem
a little surreal. At first glance, the modern structure’s soaring ceiling, sunlit walls, and spacious vestibule have little in common with the small, neat, homie hospital building that stood at the corner of 5th Street and Grand Avenue for nearly 85 years.

But if one looks a little closer, they will notice that the facility not only pays tribute to Kremmling’s medical pioneers of the past, Drs. Archie Sudan and Ernest Ceriani, but it honors the previous goals of these two intrepid leaders and others who always pushed for the most innovative medical resources for Middle Park and its citizens.

Upon entering into the open space, one immediately notices the tall fireplace where gas flames dance warmly. Several comfortable seating areas and two bar-height table and chair sets are scattered about. And suspended above it all is an enormous black-and-white birds-eye view of Kremmling and the cliffs, taken via drone by local photographers, Redeemed Photo.

It takes a moment to remember to look for a receptionist’s desk, two of which are discreetly tucked off to the side in open but private slots. And as one’s eyes continue to travel around the room, even more details emerge, like a watercolor of the original hospital hanging adjacent to the fireplace and a series of frames enclosing the famed 1948 Time Magazine profile of Dr. Ceriani, titled “Country Doctor.”

Finally, one might spy the subtle “Laboratory & Radiology” signage above a pair of double doors set into the back wall or see someone coming from another set of doors in the back corner. And on a tour of the building, walking through any set of double doors in the new facility will bring one into a new space, designed around patient comfort, privacy, and care.

In all, the new building houses a new family practice clinic, lab and radiology wing, emergency department facilities, and an in-patient unit–all state-of-the-art.

The clinic features six large exam rooms with brand new electronic exam tables, seven of which were purchased through a donation from the Middle Park Medical Foundation. There are sound-proof sliding barn doors and scales within each room so that weighing no longer has to be done in front of, well, everyone.

“Many of the design decisions throughout the facility were made with privacy concerns in mind,” points out Tiffany Freitag, Middle Park Health (MPH) Director of Community Relations.

Radiology has a new centralized control room and will have the CT imaging machine on site soon. There is a private bathroom and changing room for patients where they can safely secure their belongings. And the laboratory and blood draw station have moved out of the “dark closet” in which they diligently operated for so many years.

Patients for any of these services are being treated now in the new facility, moving in in stages following the September 28 Ribbon Cutting event.

The new Emergency Department has a covered ambulance bay with heated driveway, two separate but adjacent trauma bays, and two exam rooms, one of which is a designated mental health room, where additional safety measures have been built in. The ER connects directly to an in-patient ward where up to three patients can stay for short-term hospital stays.

Operations will move into these new facilities as soon as final technologies are in place, anticipated to be sometime in the next month, according to Freitag.

At that point, she says, discussions will begin on how to remodel the older hospital and extended living space to create more community and family space for residents whose last home may be at Middle Park Health in Kremmling. These renovations will be paid for through locally-raised donations, and will be performed primarily by MPH maintenance staff.

And administrative offices will finally return to Kremmling after two years of being in Granby, outside of the Kremmling Memorial Hospital District. They will be housed in the southern building, which has served as the clinic since its opening in 1958.

All of this may seem grandiose, especially for the small town of Kremmling. And it is true that there has been some community resistance to at least a few of the changes (think, the tearing down of the original hospital structure!). But for those who know the story of the Hospital District and the two doctors who built its foundation, it is perfectly aligned.

Since Dr. Sudan came to Kremmling in 1926, Kremmling has been at the forefront of medical care in Grand County and the region. Sudan built the first community hospital in 1933, exactly where the new facility stands today. He designed it with the newest technology in mind, including space for an X-ray machine and a furnace.

Years later, Father Thomas Barry, who was behind the building of Kremmling’s Catholic Church and rectory, would found the Middle Park Hospital Association, purchasing Dr. Sudan’s hospital and outfitting it with an autoclave, a sterilizer, oxygen tent, and other new equipment (1940s).

And when Dr. Ceriani arrived to watch over the community’s well-being, he upgraded the little hospital again (1947), replacing the coal furnace to a cleaner oil-burning model and convincing the board to purchase a newborn incubator.

In subsequent years, the original hospital building was added onto (1953), the clinic was built (1957), and a new hospital was constructed (1974). Throughout, Kremmling offered such services as infant delivery and trauma services when they were not offered in Summit County or Steamboat Springs.

So in 2021, as the community has grown and Kremmling Memorial Hospital District (KMHD) has transformed into Middle Park Health, with five clinics throughout the area, it is only fitting that the new facility, in the town where it all started, should be as modern and technologically advanced as possible.

As KMHD/MPH Board Chair Jodi Docheff so aptly stated at the well-attended ribbon cutting, “Looking at this brand new building where Dr. Sudan built the first hospital, I feel he and Dr. Ceriani would be proud of how the Kremmling Community has embraced their passion for its communities by providing excellent healthcare for all of Grand County,