Friday, July 2, 2010

Fillmore County Hospital Vote August 10th

This is an overview of what the new hospital could look like.

An architects drawing of what the new Fillmore County Hospital could look like. According to hospital information the structure would be the same but the exterior elements, like the stucco, will replicate the courthouse look with brick.

Residents of Fillmore County have been given the opportunity to voice their opinion at the polls on August 10th. "Your Future, Your Decision," has been the approach by the Fillmore County Hospital Board on the upcoming special election in regards to building a new hospital in Geneva.

Many residents of the Nebraska county have been somewhat surprised at the special election and the speed in which information is being disbursed and the pace of the election highway.

Just last month Paul Utemark, CEO of Fillmore County Hospital, a county-owned facility, approached the Fillmore County Supervisors with the news that an independent corporation had been interested in buying out the hospital, building a new hospital and donating the old building back to the county.

According to Utemark, the Fillmore County Hospital Board members "asked themselves the question, 'If they can, why can't we?'"

As the board and Utemark researched the issues they found USDA funds available for application, positive feedback from auditors on the hospital's current financial situation and cost-saving opportunities in building new.

The board looked at several reasons to pursue building a new hospital which include the age of the current facility. The FCH was built in 1961 and still has the original HVAC equipment. The design of the hospital was also geared toward the medical needs of the 1960's and not today.

Recently the Hospital board conducted several focus group meetings for leaders in the Fillmore County communities. Utemark presented a power point presentation addressing the pros and cons of the upcoming vote.

At the focus groups, Utemark presented several options including maintaining the status quo. He also discussed a renovation and expansion project versus replacing the hospital under local ownership or private ownership.

Utemark spoke of the financial impact that the hospital has on the county, citing "We have over 100 employees with a $3.5 million annual payroll."

He also spoke of the "high growth in several departments including outpatient clinic, lab, radiology, pharmacy and theraphy service departments. The change and growth has resulted in space and work flow issues in these areas."
With the high usage of the hospital the board was concerned about disrupting business with a renovation and/or expansion project. Upon learning more about the current USDA loan program for 70% of new building, the board began to pursue this avenue.

Meeting the deadline of the UDSA loan program is part of the reason for the rapidly approaching special election. The loan application is due July 15 and the FCH board had to move quickly to have additional audits done and reviewed as well as finding a location, an architect, a builder and the rest of the 30% of the funding for the project. All of those items have been taken care but the biggest issue will be resident approval.

At the focus group Utemark examined some of the concerns that residents of the county might have. He explained that the USDA loan would be "made directly to the hospital." The rest of the funding will come from general obligation bonds and the ongoing revenues of the hospital will be the collateral for the bond debt. Taxpayers are not expected to have to foot the bill for the new construction unless the hospital revenues become insufficient. After the last renovation at the hospital they saw an increase in patient volume and feel "a new facility has the potential to do the same."

Part of the cost savings of starting from scratch versus renovation will be in design costs. The board found several companies who specialize in building hospitals and have plans available similar to the needs of Fillmore County Hospital. Utemark explained that the "savings of a pre-engineered plan can offer significant savings in the design process."

Some of the other restrictions that Utemark cited for renovation are the current land-locked situation at the present site. Currently the board is looking at property on the north side of F street between 18th street and Highway 81. The city owns property near the site the county may use and several of the critical land owners nearby have indicated they are willing to sell.

Utemark and the hospital board members will be conducting town hall meetings in many of the communities in Fillmore County to inform the public on the vote and answer any questions they may have. They also have information on their website at Utemark and other community leaders are very positive about the project, "today we build to grow, having adaptability to change." Change? Well, that will be up to the voters on August 10 in Fillmore County.

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