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Final hospital recommendation due Sept. 16

Consultants studying the proposal and financing for a new Harrison County Hospital facility in west Corydon expect to make a final recommendation on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at the courthouse.
An update Thursday night from Hans Tronnes Associates of Minneapolis raised several questions, especially whether enough information will be available for the council to vote on the proposal prior to the Nov. 2 election.
Three council members are seeking re-election, including Democrat council-at-large Carl Duley of Corydon, who has said voters should know how each council member stands on the issue prior to the election. Republican Rhonda Rhoads and Democrat Carl (Buck) Mathes, both of Corydon, are also running for re-election.
Duley said Friday the consultants are leaving no doubt that the current hospital facility needs to be replaced.
‘The hospital is obsolete, outdated, and it’s in the wrong place,’ Duley said.
He said the consultants have approved the site in west Corydon, but it’s the only one they’ve had to review.
The ‘big kicker,’ Duley said, is ‘the numbers don’t jive with what they’re seeing. There’s no way they can build what they proposed to build for $35 million. Those figures are two years old.
‘They will have to go back to the drawing board and bring it up to speed,’ Duley said. ‘Before anyone can move forward, they (council members) will have to know what those figures are.’
Steve Taylor, chief executive officer of HCH, said yesterday all that’s needed is ‘conceptual approval’ from the council for the project to move forward. A spending cap could be placed on the project.
‘We can work out the details,’ Taylor said.
Robert Thompson of Hans Tronnes said yesterday the questions from the council will be addressed in the final report. ‘They have been answered in broad terms in meetings one and two,’ he said.
Those answers are:
‘Replacement of existing facilities are needed, proposed Corydon site is acceptable, facility space program and costs estimates need revision and updating, total costs of replacement project … have to be incorporated into overall strategic and financial plans.’
The final report, he said, will answer the question: ‘So what does the replacement project plan require in terms of demonstrating and assuring feasibility to enable approval by the council?’
Council chair Gary Davis, who is also on the council-appointed hospital task force, said, ‘While Hans (Tronnes) is clearly not happy with the process the hospital used to plan the new facility, the end product is probably reasonable.
‘However, the most important thing is that the capital costs to be incurred must be re-estimated,’ Davis said. ‘This is due to several issues raised by Hans ‘ the proposed facility is probably oversized, medical office building costs are not included, equipment costs may be understated, and additional operational review may need to be considered if things should be done differently in a 21st century facility.’
He emphasized that Hans Tronnes is clear on the preliminary conclusion that rebuilding on the existing campus on Atwood Street in south Corydon is not advisable and a phased-in development is not appropriate.
Taylor said a difference is costs is to be expected, because the proposal under study is now two years old.
‘We can’t do it for that amount now,’ he said.
Current estimates by the hospital place the project at $40 million. As of March, the amount was $38 million.
The plans have been reviewed by the American Society of Healthcare Architects and Engineers to see if standards for departmental space have been met. The hospital’s plans, such as the square footage needed for the surgical unit, don’t fall short of what is needed, Taylor said. The allotment of space is actually on the high side, based on national data, he said.
The hospital’s preapplication with the U.S. Housing and Urban Development for funding has a $38 million budget as of March, which takes into account inflation and interest rate changes.
‘To date, we have spent 25 percent of the needed expenditure for programming and design,’ Taylor said. ‘The HCH board’s position has been to be prudent with the expenditure of additional design fees without a commitment from the county to assist in the financing.
‘Securing a ‘Critical Access Hospital’ designation in early 2004 has changed the prospect of HCH ‘going it alone’ without county assistance,’ Taylor said.
Critical Access Hospital status, though, is a last resort, Taylor said, because that would limit inpatient beds to 25. That means patients would have to be transferred out of Harrison County when more beds would be needed.
The need for financial assistance from the county has been clear from the beginning.
Taylor said, ‘We always felt the first three to five years would be very rough. That’s why we need that money.’
Commissioner James Goldman, a member of the task force, said in his opinion the consultants have already settled the issue.
‘The current hospital is in dire need of major changes, and the present site isn’t the place for the changes necessary to provide the kind of health care we need in the community.’