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By Marcus Huff
Staff Writer 

Hot Springs County hospital expansion progressing

THERMOPOLIS – The Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital Board of Directors held a public listening session on Tuesday in Thermopolis, to inform the public on the process and progress toward the expansion of the 60-year old hospital facility.

 

March 29, 2018

COURTESY / Plan 1 Architects, Cody

Artistic rendering of the proposed Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital renovation, scheduled to begin in the fall of 2018.

THERMOPOLIS – The Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital Board of Directors held a public listening session on Tuesday in Thermopolis, to inform the public on the process and progress toward the expansion of the 60-year old hospital facility.

Hosted by HSCMH CEO Margie Molitor, the meeting featured a concise timeline of the hospital planning stages, and a presentation from architect Dan Odasz of Plan 1, for the estimated 90 people in attendance at the County Annex building.

Molitor explained that the public meeting was required to qualify for a loan from United States Department of Agriculture, which the board is currently in the process of completing the application, with the help of financial advisors from the firm of Piper Jaffrey.

The move to expand the hospital began in 2011, when the board investigated bringing the building up to code at a cost of $12 million (the building is currently not up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards), renovation for $16.1 million, or a total rebuild for $23.5 million.

In November 2013, voters rejected the idea of creating a hospital district, and the HSCMH held public meetings through 2015 to determine that the public preferred the hospital remain in its current location. In the fall of 2015, the hospital moved forward to propose a special purpose tax for $16.4 million to establish a hospital district, for the purpose of expanding and renovating the facility in its current location.

In 2016, all three county municipalities, Thermopolis, East Thermopolis and Kirby, voted to proceed with the special tax, and in 2016, the tax passed by 1,643 votes, with the establishment of the hospital district receiving the same.

Throughout 2017, the HSCMH has been acquiring financial and architectural services to facilitate the planning process, with a groundbreaking target date of fall 2018, and a completion date of December 2020.

Molitor highlighted the current challenges to the hospital, including the need for upgraded security, private shower areas, ADA accessibility and smaller-than-standard operating rooms.

"Right now, our visiting surgeons would like to see improved operating facilities, which would also help in our recruitment of future personnel," said Molitor.

Challenges to building on the same location, as indicated by Molitor, would be keeping the hospital open during construction (as with the hospital in Worland), coordinating with a project to expand parking at the current Gottsche facility adjacent to the hospital and using existing, load-bearing walls in the reconstruction.

Molitor explained that the 1-cent sales tax, approved by voters, will only be in effect until the $16.4 million is collected, and that 3-mil levy on property tax will replace previous funding from the county commission, and go toward future equipment purchases and maintenance to the new facility.

Molitor dismissed a rumor that 1-cent funds had been used to buy Red Rock Family Practice, noting that the hospital already owned the clinic property and building.

In the run-up to formalizing the project and the 1-cent tax funding, the board met with St. Vincent of Billings, Wyoming Medical Center, Sage West and Banner Health, in search of a partnership. Ultimately, none were interested in capital investment, although Banner indicated that they would build a new emergency room for the HSCMH, but expected hospital patients to be transferred to Worland for treatment.

In the end, HSCMH decided to the put the matter to a vote of Hot Spring County residents.

 
 

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