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Don’t build modern facililty on present site, hospital panel told

If Harrison County Hospital were a 1950 Cadillac, today it would be ready for a major overhaul at the very least, or a new replacement at best.
Using that analogy, consultants recently told the Harrison County Hospital Study Committee that the old car has more than served its purpose and it hasn’t run out of gas. But if Harrison County plans to serve more passengers with added services and programs, the car will need a new chassis with lots of room and it must be outfitted with latest high-tech equipment.
‘If you had to, you could put a second floor on much of the existing building, but, in our minds, you would never want to,’ Hans Tronnes of Hans Tronnes Associates, a Minneapolis, Minn., consulting firm, told the committee during an interim report Friday night, Aug. 20, at the courthouse.
‘To create a modern facility, we don’t think you ought to be doing it on this (existing) campus.’
For its interim report, the consultants studied material and data already compiled by the hospital, site visits and information gleaned from interviews. Additional information will be presented tomorrow night (Thursday) at 7 at the courthouse followed by a final report and recommendation on Sept. 16.
‘We have tons of information we’ve sorted through,’ said Tronnes.
‘The studies commissioned by HCH for the replacement project are thorough and detailed. Individuals and firms that appear to be objective and knowledgeable sources of information and advice prepared the studies.’
The $80,000 study was commissioned by the hospital study group with approval from the Harrison County Council.
‘This is the first in a series of three meetings,’ said Councilman Gary Davis, who chairs the study group as well as the council. ‘We’re not at the point of making a recommendation yet.’
Also attending the Aug. 20 meeting were committee members J. Gordon Pendleton, a retired Corydon businessman and community leader; Councilmen Carl Duley and Kenneth Saulman, and HCH Chief Executive Director Steve Taylor and hospital trustee Fred Owen.
Although initially seeking half of the financing for the project from riverboat revenue, hospital officials are proceeding with other financing options. Plans include a $35 million new facility west of Corydon. Before the council commits any funds for the project, assurances are needed that replacing the current hospital is necessary and the plan is viable.
The consultants found that while hospital ownership is accepted by most who were interviewed, others question the need for county ownership. ‘Local access to basic care and employment of both professional and basic workers was mentioned as important benefits of county ownership,’ Tronnes said.
The hospital’s role in providing indigent care should be clearly defined, the consultants noted.
A review of the current hospital site found relocating would be necessary if the hospital is to expand in size, programs and services.
‘Customers appreciate being able to easily view the access drives, the particular entrances they seek and convenient parking ‘ not unlike retail shopping,’ Tronnes said. ‘The current campus accomplishes none of this.
‘The current Harrison County campus has significant limitations and is not suited for significant long-range hospital/healthcare use in our judgment … ‘ the consultant’s report said. ‘If the hospital desires to improve its visibility, image and accessibility, a new site is necessary.’
Tronnes said it would be difficult to perceive of HCH as a first-class medical facility in its current location on Atwood Street in south Corydon, where a mix of schools, homes, retirement and urgent care facilities, medical buildings and offices co-exist.
Councilman Duley noted that the hospital was constructed 56 years ago in an area that grew up around it. ‘Everybody wanted to be around the hospital,’ he said. ‘That ‘used car’ has really served us well.
‘It is probably time to replace it,’ Duley said. ‘The county is ready to move forward. You can’t stand still. If you do, you move backward.’
Duley said his greatest concern is making sure the hospital doesn’t become a burden on his grandchildren.
‘I know we can get the thing built,’ he said. ‘The question is, after it’s built, can it sustain itself?’
Consultants are expected to crunch those numbers before their work is complete.
In the meantime, the consultants said upgrading and expanding at the present site would be ‘unwise.’
The hospital can continue to provide services in the near future or longer, if growth is limited. ‘But when increased demand for services and space force significant facility change, this campus will not serve Harrison County residents well.’
The hospital’s planned construction site south of Interstate 64, about a mile west of the S.R. 135-I-64 interchange, ‘has most all of the attributes suggested for significant hospital and healthcare-related development,’ the consultants said.
And while there will likely be a second interchange west of the new hospital location, the consultants don’t think the project should be held up until that happens.
‘The exact placement and timing of it are uncertain,’ Tronnes said of the added interchange. ‘We expect that development of the site for a new hospital will positively impact both timing and location.’
An alternative suggestion to the current site would be the Interstate 64-Lanesville exit, about eight miles east of Corydon, which would be closer to the expanding medical community, Tronnes said.