TMH board begins quest for funding

New hospital to cost $17-$18 M


The ideas and needs have been analyzed and digested, the concept of the building and the reality of what can be built have been melded, and a final footprint has been finished.

The plan for Moffat County's future hospital is ready.

The Memorial Hospital (TMH) officials are planning the construction of a 66,000 square foot, 32-bed facility, which is up from the current capacity of 29 beds, but down from the hospital's 75,000 square feet.

The new facility would address a host of problems TMH now faces, from becoming code compliant for fire alarm systems, electrical panels and wiring, to meeting space needs, privacy law requirements and customer satisfaction. The Memorial Hospital building is 50 years old and has had four additions over the years.

The estimated cost for a new facility is $17 to $18 million, according to hospital Administrator Randy Phelps. Based on the blueprints submitted by the hospital, an architectural firm will provide the hospital with the cost of building the new facility and guarantee the construction will not exceed that price. That Guaranteed Not to Exceed price will be given to the hospital on July 25.

"The cost to fix the present building so we could become compliant would be $8 million, and we would gain no improvements in space, privacy or customer satisfaction," Phelps said. "We need a new facility to deal with these issues, and to recruit doctors. To recruit and retain doctors for our community, a new facility is necessary."

The hospital board had planned to expand the hospital using the Moffat County School District Administration Building, but the cost was too high and the logistical problems were too many, so they now plan to build a new facility.

The fact that the new facility will actually be smaller is a testament to how inefficient the layout of TMH is, Phelps said. The X-ray department is spread out into three separate areas, it is far from the cardiopulmonary area, plus it is located at the rear of the hospital, which highlights the space difficulties of the present building, he added.

A new facility would have 32 modern, private rooms, an outpatient-focused SurgiCenter, an efficient and logical layout, allow for fulfillment of parking and helicopter landing needs, and keep the hospital competitive with the new hospital in Steamboat Springs. A new building would also have 30,000 square feet of basement space that could be used for future expansions.

If the hospital cannot remain competitive, the community could eventually lose local-based health care and the $25 million that health care generates annually for the community's economy, Phelps said.

The question of how to pay for a new facility is still open, but hospital officials plan to propose an initiative to raise community support for tax support of the project. Funds raised from the community would be used in addition to funds raised by a Hospital Foundation, which would be used to solicit private funds and grants.

"We are on the edge of forming a capital foundation to pursue private funds, grants and Department of Local Affairs money, among others," Phelps said. "We believe we can raise a significant amount of the necessary funds through foundation work.

TMH has $5 million of credit worthiness, which is a projection of the revenue the hospital could earn to pay back any bond issued for the construction, and would need approximately $10 million more to cover the bonds for construction.

Once the Guaranteed Not to Exceed price is received, TMH will have a number to work with for both private and public fund-raising. A phone survey is planned for August to gauge community support.

The hospital is planning to register a ballot initiative on July 30, but will have until this fall to make a final decision on whether it is needed.

"Sept. 4 is the last deadline to go in on the November election," he said. "If the support is there and the election is successful, we would acquire the balance of the land needed, and break ground in the spring of 2002."

The hospital board is in the process of purchasing all of the lots from Tucker Street to Yampa Avenue and from Seventh Street to Eighth Street.

There are two or three lots that remain to be negotiated for, Phelps said. The hospital is offering incentives for property owners to sell within 120 days of July 1.

Phelps has also discussed the need to close Russell Street with City Manager Jim Ferree and plans to submit a proposal to the Craig City Council soon. There is a concern that the hospital will acquire the property needed to build a new hospital and then not be able to close Russell Street.

"At TMH, we are committed to the health and welfare of our community. That's our mission," Phelps said.

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