Hospital meeting draws few residents

Officials say keeping public informed kept attendance numbers down

Advertisement

No new tax. No concern.

So it seemed Tuesday night at a meeting to discuss the building of a new hospital in Craig.

A year ago more than 50 people packed into a small meeting room at the Holiday Inn to hear a presentation on The Memorial Hospital converting to critical access status, a designation for rural hospitals that increases the facility's Medicare reimbursements.

While the subject of the meeting was critical access, many audience members wanted to know what TMH officials' plans were to build a new hospital.

TMH Administrator Randy Phelps repeatedly told the audience that the new hospital plans would be discussed in a public forum at a later date.

That date came last night.

About 30 people attended a presentation at the Holiday Inn, but of that 30, some were local media representatives, hospital employees, TMH board members and hospital foundation members.

About 10 community members not affiliated with the hospital attended the presentation.

Board member Ron Danner said after the meeting he thought community concern had lessened because of TMH's conversion to critical access, which will provide a funding source for a new hospital, and will avoid the hospital having to ask the community for a tax increase.

"I believe one of the main issues was people didn't want more taxes," he said. "We've found a solution

to that."

Phelps said he thought Tuesday's turnout was good, and said he thought numbers were probably lower because people have been better informed in the past year about TMH's plans.

"I think maybe we've been getting more information out to satisfy people's questions," he said after the meeting.

Danner agreed.

"I think the things Pam (Thompson, the hospital's community relations director) has been doing to inform people through the media has helped," he said.

Phelps and Thompson gave an hour-long presentation on what the hospital's plans were to construct a new $18 million building at the same site where the current hospital sits.

A few audience members voiced concerns when Phelps opened the floor to questions at the conclusion of his presentation.

Linda Bellio asked Phelps about what she called the "discourse" in the community about the location where the officials want to build.

She then asked a flurry of questions about possible problems she saw in choosing the same site.

One was flooding.

Phelps said creating proper drainage has been figured into the overall project cost.

An appropriate drainage system will be installed and water will run into the creek, he said.

Bellio asked if room has been left for hospital expansion, which Phelps said has been planned.

Audience member John Ponikvar said last year officials said that they anticipated an $18 million price tag on construction and another $7 million for equipment.

Phelps said those numbers have been scaled back to $18 million total, with $16 million being spent on construction and another $2 million on equipment.

Cutbacks have been made in equipment purchases and a basement, which had been included in previous plans, will not be built under the new hospital.

After the meeting, Craig resident Bill Hesselgren said he attended the presentation to get an update on the hospital plans.

He said his feelings were mixed.

"I haven't made up my mind about the whole project but I'm in agreement that we need a new facility," he said.

He said he was concerned about administrators' and board members' site selection and wondered if it allowed enough room for expansion as the community continues to grow.

"I think it might have been worth the price to relocate it," he said.

He said past concern might have stemmed from previous projects that called for a mill levy increase.

"The safety center irked a lot of people," he said. "But a hospital is definitely an important part of the community."

Officials said Tuesday that in order to maintain that important part of the community, a new hospital must be built whether it's just providing better healthcare or attracting new medical professionals to the area.

"Just because we build a new hospital does not mean we're going to be successful in recruiting new doctors," Phelps said during his presentation. "But it shows that the community has a commitment to quality health care."

Communities like Meeker, Rifle and Steamboat Springs have recently spent money to improve or replace their facilities, Thompson said.

"We need to stay competitive with these markets," she said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.