New hospital location could impact grant eligibility

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If the hospital board chooses to build a hospital at a site other than the current location, it will have to justify its decision to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) -- that is if it wants $1 million in funding it hopes to receive through a grant from the agency.

This was the message delivered Tuesday during a Moffat County commissioner meeting by

Tim Sarmo, regional manager of DOLA.

"We'll ask you a series of questions about that," he told the commissioners. "Like why was it done, and what you want to do with the (Visiting Nurse Association). We will ask you some serious questions."

The reason the decision would be questioned, he said, was in 1996 DOLA approved a $640,000 energy impact grant to the county for construction of the V.N.A. in Craig next door to The Memorial Hospital.

A new site would deviate from the previous plan, he said, which was to have a health care campus in the center of the community.

TMH officials planned to apply for grant funding from DOLA through the county by April 1, which is one of three times grants can be applied for during the year.

TMH Community Relations Director Pam Thompson said the hospital planned to apply for the maximum amount of eligible funds, which would have been $1 million over the next two years.

Thompson did not attend Tuesday's commissioner meeting, but when told of the discussion that had taken place, said the hospital would have to take it under consideration.

"If that's the case, we need to visit with the commissioners," she said.

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos agreed.

"He told us that we would have to have that conversation with the board," she said of the county's eligibility for grant money. "The consideration made back then when DOLA gave that money was that this was going to be the health campus."

After the meeting, Sarmo said he did not want to be perceived as saying that DOLA would not provide funding if a new site was chosen.

"The hospital and the county just needs to address some of the issues, and pros and cons of a new site versus the current one," he said. "We are stewards of public dollars, but it's not our business to decide what's best for a community."

When the county sought dollars for the V.N.A. in 1996, the

same issues were addressed, he

said.

"At that point in time we looked at the same things and asked what the advantages were associated with those proposals," he said. "Now is a different time."

Sarmo said the community's idea to share a site between the hospital, Colorado Northwestern Community College and a recreation center was appealing to grant providers.

"The fact that people are looking at the land use in a coordinated fashion is to your benefit," he said.

Earlier in the same meeting, V.N.A. Executive Director Sue Birch expressed her concerns about hospital relocation during her V.N.A. report.

"I don't know where we're headed but I want to throw it out there that the V.N.A. being in close proximity to the hospital is very important," she said. "There's a huge value in having that co-location. It concerns me that we could be moving apart and there could be some issues."

One issue cited by Birch after the meeting included V.N.A. home health care nurses collaborating with doctors and nurses at TMH when patients are being discharged to set up visitation plans with the patients when they go home.

She also said joint meetings and presentations are scheduled between the two facilities.

"Being next door, they can sit down to a meeting much quicker," she said. "If the hospital moved, nurses would have to rely on a lot of phone calls."

The importance of employees at the two facilities being able to cooperate is increasing, she said.

"I can't stress enough as to what I see in the future in reductions in government funding, scarcer resources and the swelling demographics in public health," she said. "All of these things increase the need for an interdisciplinary team model and people being able to work together."

If the hospital were to relocated, Birch said she did not know if the V.N.A. would stay in its current location or move.

"We're open to all options and want to do what's best for the community," she said.

In conclusion, DOLA regional manager Sarmo said again that grant dollars are there for the improvement of communities.

"Our job is to strengthen communities so we want to be driven by what you want to do," he said.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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