County voters will be asked in November to approve a new sales-and-use tax to fund a $14.2 million overhaul of the 40-year-old Southwest Memorial Hospital.
The ambitious project entails building a state-of-the-art inpatient wing at the 25-bed, critical access hospital on Mildred Road, as well as an ambulance garage with conference space and rooming quarters for EMS staff. The existing inpatient wing would be remodeled for the use of SWHS' four leased clinics, currently scattered throughout town. The Mancos Valley Health Center would remain in its current location.
Officials plan to apply for a USDA loan to pay for $6.6 million of the project and, if approved, the sales tax would cover the bulk of the remaining cost.
The 0.4 percent tax - 4 cents per $10 - would be applied to money spent in Montezuma County but would exclude certain items like most food purchased in grocery stores, prescription drugs, residential utilities and non-licensed farm equipment.
As a limited sales tax, it would expire at the end of the loan period or in 15 years, whichever comes first.
At a July 29 press conference, Southwest Health System and Montezuma County Hospital District board members, Southwest Memorial Hospital CEO Kent Rogers, and hospital staff announced the referendum, emphasizing that a sales-and-use tax was the most equitable way to fund the project since many visitors and regional shoppers also use the hospital.
Officials also emphasized the need for the expansion and facilities upgrade as a crucial piece of modernizing the county's health-care infrastructure.
"This project has taken over five years to get this point. We've had engineering reports, architects come in to try and figure out what it is we need most. We need a lot of things, but these are the things that we decided we needed most," said board president Judy Schuenemeyer. "The hospital was built in the 1970s. It's out of date, it's not as efficient as we could make it. We would rather spend the money, and we think the community would rather spend the money on something state-of-the-art that can provide 21st-century care and be a better place for people to work."
The Montezuma County Hospital District and the Southwest Memorial Health System boards are partnering to contribute funds for the upgrade. MCHD has pledged $1.5 million from its mill levy revenue.
Southwest plans to put savings from leases - about $200,000 per year - into the main campus.
Private donors have chipped in $331,000 though the capital campaign fundraising effort.
While aware that gaining community support for a new tax is a tough row to hoe, officials say the project is vital for Southwest Memorial to remain relevant in today's competitive and financially challenging health-care industry.
"Part of that is staying modern and up-to-date," said Rogers. "We're always looking at how we can do that with procedures and technologies, but facilities are also a big part of that. The sales-tax financing is key to making this project work."
Southwest Memorial Hospital employs about 400 people, including 22 physicians and 34 medical staff members. In 2014, it provided services to 214,131 patients and made 2,450 ambulance transports.
Construction would begin in March or April 2016.