On-Site Surgery in Colorado

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Corrections now has one of the few ambulatory surgical centers in the country that is within the secured perimeter of a correctional facility. The $2.8 million facility recently opened on the state grounds of the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Unit — an inmate intake facility with an infirmary where acutely ill or post-surgery inmates are managed.

The state of Colorado issued a RFP in late 2010 for a design-build-finance proposal for a 3,370-square-foot ambulatory surgical suite and received several bids for the project.

The design and construction focused around convenience, efficiency and safety. HMC Colorado Contracting, LLC, an affiliate of Hale-Mills Construction, Ltd. worked on the project alongside Phoenix, Ariz.-based architectural firm, Arrington Watkins Architects. Municipal Capital Markets Group, Inc. financed the transaction.

“The state of Colorado didn’t have the money up-front to build this facility but they did have the ability to make payments over a period of time derived from the savings that will be achieved as a result of not having to transport inmates out of the system for medical procedures,” said Eric Cohen, Vice President of Hale-Mills Construction, Ltd.

The design and construction of the new surgical unit provided the state with two major benefits — public protection and future financial savings. The construction was the first modular project for HMC Colorado Contracting, LLC, an affiliate of Hale-Mills Construction, Ltd., and was designed to be more convenient and efficient for both the construction teams as well as the state of Colorado.

“The modular construction helped with the cost and we didn’t need it to be typical hard-construction like you’d need if you were building a prison. The modular building worked very well and it made the project cost efficient and was completed in a shorter period of time,” said Joanie Shoemaker, Deputy Director of Prisons in Colorado.

The construction took less than four months to complete — including the transportation of the modular units from Indiana to Colorado. The units were constructed and fabricated in four separate parts by Williams Scotsman based in Indianapolis, Ind. and then transported to Colorado to be completed by HMC Colorado Contracting, LLC.

Although constructing a facility off-site wasn’t ideal for Sean Butler, Vice President of Hale-Mills Construction, Ltd., it provided its benefits as well.

“As a contractor I prefer to have control over a project from ground up, on site you can control it a little bit better. From a modular standpoint, once the buildings got there we finished the project within a month. So, from that aspect once it got there it really facilitated completing the project very quickly,” said Butler.

The new surgical unit will accommodate 6-8 surgeries a day once the facility is inspected again by the health department and the appropriate licenses are obtained. Shoemaker estimates the facility should be open for operations within the next month.

The surgical unit is a unique concept and according to Shoemaker only two other states have surgical units set up within the confines of a correctional facility. Florida has had a building dedicated to inmate surgical procedures for a number of years and Georgia has a semi-trailer unit used for inmate procedures, according to Shoemaker. Colorado was focused more on bringing in an actual building within the secure environment in order to accommodate more surgeries for patients.

“We wanted our surgical unit to be a standing building. We needed to have solid floor in order to perform any eye surgeries — with the building now we are able to give inmates eye surgeries on-site,” said Shoemaker.

The main diagnostic center for inmates is adjacent to the new surgical unit and can hold nearly 1,000 inmates who are waiting to get prepped for surgery or in a recovery room waiting to be healthy enough to enter back into their housing unit. The convenience of having the surgical center in such close proximity was extremely important to Shoemaker and the people of Colorado.

“What this does is puts inmate healthcare behind the secure perimeter of the facility and really promotes public protection here in Colorado,” said Shoemaker.

Since the surgical center is located on the grounds of a correctional facility there will be a correctional officer on-site and the same strict security measures will apply.

Creating the surgical unit helped save transporting costs of inmates to and from contracted hospitals around the state and also is extremely beneficial to public safety to keep inmates on the grounds of the correctional facility.

“It was cost and convenience driven. It makes a lot more sense for them security wise to not have to take these folks outside of a secure environment,” said Butler.