The Southwest Memorial Hospital building is turning 41 next year, and board members say it’s showing its age.
The remedy? A “21st century” in-patient wing, estimated to cost $12 million, that would modernize the 25-bed acute care facility.
The Southwest Health Systems board of directors and the Montezuma County Hospital District are gearing up for a major fundraising and grant application campaign to make the new wing a reality.
Judy Schuenemeyer, chair of the Southwest Memorial Hospital Board, told the Cortez City Council on Jan. 13 that the hospital is outdated and ill-sized for today’s health-care staff and patient needs.
“The building now is terribly inefficient,” said Schuenemeyer. “A new wing would allow us to put things together for cross use of staff, more privacy for patients, and better security.”
An inpatient wing also would also free up space for the Southwest Memorial primary care clinics scattered throughout Cortez. Once the new wing is built and in-patient services moved over, the plan would be to set up the clinics and offices into the newly freed -p space.
“Having the clinics together should be more convenient for patients and their families, especially when addition lab or radiology testing is needed,” she said.
The consolidation effort would only affect two primary care clinics and one walk-in clinic in Cortez – the busy Mancos primary care clinic would remain in place – but it would free up roughly $91,000 annually that the hospital spends on lease payments.
“Many of the clinics’ buildings are privately owned by physicians who are no longer in the community,” she said.
The consolidation would also allow the hospital to leverage better private insurance and Medicare reimbursement rates, or payments for services rendered. Typically, larger health-care entities have more pull with negotiating higher reimbursement rates from insurers and the federal centers for Medicaid and Medicare.
Aside from the new wing, the construction budget also includes a garage to house ambulances. The hospital has to keep the ambulances running 24 hours a day to ensure proper temperature levels for certain medicines and patient comfort, Schuenemeyer said. An “ambulance barn” would allow the vehicles some external climate control.
“We have hired a great number of doctors in last few years,” said Schuenemeyer. “We have a need for one more primary care physician but we have nowhere to put them. We also have specialists, neurologists, nephrologists, that come in from Durango and Grand Junction once or twice a month, so people in our community don’t have to drive to see a specialist, but we’re running out of space to free up.”
Paying for the new wing, however will be a challenge. The two boards are trying to minimize the total sum they would have to finance through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan. They are seeking grant funding from the Colorado Department of Labor and Agriculture next year and are embarking on a major public outreach campaign in the next few months in an attempt to raise funds via donations.
“We haven’t really made any big public announcements so we could inform staff first, but the response so far has been positive,” said Schuenemeyer. “We’re hoping to start next year, but its all going to depend on the funding.”