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Hospital planning follows 2 routes

Harrison County Hospital officials are moving forward with a plan to finance a new $35 million facility in northwest Corydon without help from the county’s riverboat revenue, if necessary.
The hospital has applied for a loan guarantee with the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, said HCH administrator Steve Taylor.
In the meantime, a panel of Harrison County leaders and hospital officials met Thursday with a Minneapolis-based hospital consulting firm to define the scope of a feasibility study of the proposed facility. The Harrison County Council is expected to commission the study and, based on the outcome, determine whether it’s in the best interest of county residents to help fund the project.
‘What is best for this community is a vibrant hospital providing convenient, close services and jobs,’ Taylor said. ‘The farther you are from any hospital, the less chance you have of survival in a crisis. The closer you are to a hospital, the better off you are.
‘And, the hospital brings revenue back into this community that can be spent throughout the community.’
The hospital payroll this year is expected to be near $15 million, Taylor said. ‘The U.S. Dept. of Commerce calculates that every $1 in payroll generates $4 to $5 in economic development. That means the hospital payroll generates $60 million to $75 million a year for this community.’
The proposal calls for the council to approve about half the funding for the new facility, or $17.5 million, from riverboat revenue. The hospital would then cover the balance.
The three county commissioners have given their blessings to replacing the facility that’s been located for 54 years in a residential neighborhood in south Corydon.
Now, it’s up to the council, which appointed the study group. The group includes council president Gary Davis, vice president Carl Duley, councilman Kenneth Saulman, Fred Owen, vice president of the hospital’s board of directors, Commissioner James Goldman, and J. Gordon Pendleton, a retired banker who chairs the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County’s Economic Development Committee.
Davis chaired Thursday’s meeting and pointed out to the few visitors in the audience that the task force study is not intended to delay the council’s decision until after the Nov. 2 General Election, which includes the races of three incumbent at-large council members.
If the panel decides to hire the consultants, the results of the study would be complete in six to eight weeks, said Hans Tronnes of Hans Tronnes Consulting.
He and his associate, Bob Thompson, were on hand to detail the firm’s methods and reach an understanding of what the panel wants answered by the study. Following that meeting, the consultants met the next morning at 7 at HCH with Taylor and gathered information from the hospital.
Tronnes expects to submit the firm’s study proposal, including costs, to the panel in about a week.
Duley outlined several determinations, at the meeting and later, that should be made by the study:
‘ Whether it would be feasible to make the needed improvements at the hospital’s current site;
‘ Why the hospital shouldn’t stay at its present location;
‘ Whether the site in northwest Corydon would be the best choice of several that are available for a new hospital, if one is needed;
‘ Whether the county should stay in the hospital business or sell, and
‘ Whether the hospital’s proposed building plans would meet all the county’s needs.
Taylor said if the hospital finances the construction on its own, then it would likely raise the funds through a bond bank, or a conglomeration of loans, or the Indiana Health Care Facility Financing Authority. ‘At this point, that looks like a strong option,’ Taylor said Monday.
To meet HUD requirements, though, would require the hospital to be classified as a critical care facility. And that would mean limiting the hospital’s in-patient care to 25 beds, unless an epidemic would occur when the numbers could be higher. ‘There is no free lunch,’ Taylor said. ‘Critical access is going to restrict the number of in-patients; nobody’s going to be happy.’
If designated a critical care hospital, then HCH would affiliate with one or more other hospitals to provide the care.
‘You won’t see any difference with the exception we can only take care of 25 in-patients on any given day,’ Taylor said.
Currently, the hospital is prepared to care for 50 in-patients a day, he said.