UCHealth Greeley Hospital just marked its first birthday after caring for thousands of patients and playing a key role in the fight against COVID-19 in one of the hardest-hit counties in the state.

“This was an exciting and yet challenging year that helped us build the foundation of Greeley Hospital,” said Marilyn Schock, president of the hospital. “The community will be depending on us for this excellent care for years to come. I am so proud of the work our team has done and all of the lives they’ve touched.”

The hospital officially opened its doors at 7 a.m. July 3, 2019. The first patient arrived just two minutes later, and the first baby was born about 16 hours later. The busy first day was a sign of what was in store for the year to come.

“The demand for the services and care that we are providing on this campus – at both the Greeley Hospital and the Greeley Medical Center – has been strong since the very beginning,” said Dr. Daniel Zenk, a UCHealth internal medicine physician who has been caring for patients in Weld County for nearly 30 years. “Our community is trusting us with their care and the care of their loved ones, and we are honored to serve them in an even greater capacity so close to home.”

The 50-bed hospital features a birth center with Level II special care nursery, an intensive care unit, three operating rooms, a Level III trauma center and emergency department, a café, a gift shop, 24/7 retail pharmacy, radiology and laboratory services, and a meditation room – with room to grow. Just east of the hospital is UCHealth Greeley Medical Center, a multispecialty outpatient facility that opened shortly before the hospital did. It houses services and providers with specialties that range from rehabilitation and primary care to heart care and cancer care.

A few key numbers from Greeley Hospital’s first year (data as of midnight July 2, 2020):

  • Babies born – 557
  • Medical-surgical admissions – 2,410
  • Emergency room visits – 22,062
  • Inpatient surgeries – 341
  • Outpatient surgeries – 1,222
  • Employees – Opened hospital with about 400 employees on staff at Greeley Hospital. Currently have 565 employees on staff at the hospital. They are among about 700 employees on the campus.
  • Volunteers – 65. They logged more than 3,500 volunteer hours before the pandemic hit.
  • Therapy dogs – 1 (named Oakley).

The first year included a lot of expected challenges and adjustments, according to Schock. Then, just over seven months after opening, the hospital team faced an unprecedented challenge: a worldwide pandemic on its doorstep.

Over the course of three months, the hospital cared for many patients who were confirmed or suspected of having the disease. Most of them recovered enough to go home or discharge to another facility for continued care.

“When you open a new hospital, you expect to run into challenges, but you don’t expect one of them to be a pandemic,” Schock said. “There were some difficult and dark days, but our providers and staff persevered and brought their best selves to the bedside of many very sick patients to care for them and their families with compassion and expertise. They provided outstanding care and were adaptable and flexible with the ever-changing situations. They worked long, hard hours and saved many lives.”

By mid-June, the number of patients with COVID-19 being cared for at Greeley Hospital had dropped significantly. While the hospital remains on alert and prepared to care for an uptick in patients with COVID-19 should that happen, most of the patients there now are being treated for other conditions and injuries. A number of measures are in place to keep all patients, visitors and staff safe, including visitor restrictions, online check-ins and physical distancing in waiting rooms. The hospital also is now testing every hospitalized patient for COVID-19, and anyone who tests positive is cared for in a designated area.

“I am so proud of the response from our system, our doctors, advanced practice professionals, nurses and support staff,” said Dr. James Campain, an emergency physician and chief of staff at Greeley Hospital. “And we all were especially touched by the outpouring of support from the community. They sent meals, equipment and kind messages of thanks. Just knowing that they all were thinking of us and rooting for us during the challenging times meant a lot to every one of us.”

“It was an unbelievable year all around,” Schock said. “I’ve never been prouder to work amongst such an amazing team and in such a wonderful community. I am truly excited for what the future has in store for us.”