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PEÑA: Denver Health is moving in right direction under Arthur Gonzalez

March 3, 2016

Re: “Denver Health lost top doctors, including medicine and surgery chiefs,” Jan. 10 news story.

A recent article in The Denver Post intimated that Arthur Gonzalez, CEO of Denver Health, had “shed top doctors and nurses” to cover the costs of a new electronic health record system. It quoted a health consultant as saying “the departure of top-flight talent from any hospital could be a sign of trouble.”

To the contrary, Dr. Gonzalez is providing solid leadership as he moves Denver Health into the 21st century by providing great medical care for more than 220,000 patients.

During my eight years as mayor of Denver, facing a major recession, my team and I understood that efficiencies had to be sought, new technology had to be embraced and tough decisions had to be made. We worked diligently to advance the care provided by our city's hospital system. Dr. Gonzalez continues Denver Health's legacy of providing one of the country's most advanced systems of health care. His leadership has eliminated staggering wait times for scheduling appointments, designed a master plan for efficient facilities use, signed up more than 30,000 new Medicaid patients under the Affordable Care Act, is building the new Southwest Family Health Center and plans to also renovate the Sam Sandos Health Center.

In addition, Dr. Gonzalez is overseeing the installation of an advanced electronic health record system, currently used by hospitals around the country. This new system will improve patient safety by integrating care. Not only will it electronically connect Denver Health to partner hospitals like the University of Colorado Health Center and Children's Hospital Colorado, the new records system is critical in managing the tens of thousands of new patients who have recently enrolled.

When leadership is visionary and strives to implement cutting-edge strategies, it is often met with resistance from some. But great institutions must continually embrace changing environments. Those that do not are left behind.

Change is never easy. Bold and challenging decisions are part of Denver Health's history and are what has made it the nationally recognized public health system it is today, which includes the Rocky Mountain Level 1 Regional Trauma Center, the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, a world-class paramedic division, 18 school-based clinics and soon to be nine community health centers. Most importantly, Denver Health provided care last year to a record number of Denver residents, regardless of their ability to pay.

The future is bright at Denver Health under Gonzalez's leadership. The organization is growing, having added approximately 600 staff members in the past two years, making it one of the metro area's largest employers. In fact, I am so supportive of Denver Health's direction that along with my wife, Cindy, I am co-chairing the capital campaign to raise $11 million for the new Southwest Family Health Center which is set to open in April.

Please join us in celebrating its opening, as it provides service to more than 25,000 residents with their first fully integrated healthcare facility.

Denver is fortunate to have Denver Health in our community. Its transformation into a 21st century health care provider makes Denver stronger. We should take every opportunity to thank the team members who work tirelessly and selflessly to make it exceptional.

Federico Peña is a former Denver mayor, Colorado legislator and U.S. energy secretary.

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