Funding plans for a new hospital advanced last Tuesday evening, even though some area residents voiced concerns about the new facility.
The Jackson County Regional Health Center Board of Trustees voted 5-1 to borrow $20 million via revenue bonds to pay for the new hospital it is proposing to build. Seventh board member Leighton Hepker was not at Tuesday’s meeting.
Board member John Cressey opposed the resolution, saying it was “too inclusive.”
The resolution states that the new 71,500-square-foot hospital will be built southeast from the intersection of U.S. Highway 61 and Main Street. Cressey said he hadn’t ruled out the possibility that “something could be done” with a new hospital on the existing 700 Grove St. site in Maquoketa.
“We really haven’t looked at the current site deeply enough,” Cressey said.
That comment comes about seven months after the hospital board voted 4-3 to build a new hospital on a new site, which Cressey voted against.
The borrowed money could also be used to demolish the current hospital, according to the resolution.
Cressey pointed out that he and fellow hospital board members have said they don’t know what will happen to the current hospital building.
Board member Matt Osterhaus said the board is not committed to demolition.
The board’s 5-1 voted followed a 45-minute public hearing in which six people voiced their views about the new hospital. Five people offered concerns about the new facility’s location, cost, funding, access, size and services. One person favored a new facility.
Board of Trustees President Kevin Burns addressed what he called a “rumor” about JCRHC’s affiliation with Genesis amid some people’s speculation that Genesis will take over the new hospital after it is built using taxpayer dollars.
“There’s such a misconception in the public,” Burns said. “The Genesis thing, we’re not considering at this point, we’re not looking at any ... additional affiliation. Obviously, that’s a rumor out there.”
The $20 million in revenue bonds will be made available in December and January.
“This is not the final step of the process. We’re still not past the point of no return. It’s just the next step to continue down the road we’re on,” Burns said.
Architects will make a handful of changes to the proposed Jackson County Regional Health Center facility before finalizing and releasing bid documents in March.
Proposed plans for the new hospital now include an additional elevator, a third drive-through ambulance bay, a larger generator, and an entrance into the parking lot that avoids the parking stalls.
With these modifications, the new facility should cost an estimated $36.8 million. That is about $359,000 more than the preliminary estimate J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. presented to the board two months ago, and about $1.2 million (3.9 percent) more than estimated in March 2017.
Some of the escalated costs are a result of price increases in steel and concrete, officials said.
Also, the cost does not include an estimated $1.18 million to demolish the existing building. However, the trustees have made no plans for that building’s future.
But Findorff, BWBR Architects and hospital staff have worked hard to stick within the target budget set forth 18 months ago, according to hospital administrator Curt Coleman.
The JCRHC Board of Trustees saw more finalized design plans and cost estimates Tuesday afternoon. Board members approved the design changes and two alternates involving concrete. The approval gives BWBR the green light to finalize construction documents and get the project ready to bid.
New facility details
Patients and visitors would enter the main level of the new 71,500-square-foot building through either the main entrance or the outpatient services entrance, both facing south. They would check in at the registration desk and would have to navigate only a single 200-foot hallway.
All patient services would be on the main level. They could take stairs or an elevator to the lower level for food, classrooms or administration.
The new hospital would be licensed for 25 beds as it is now. Four emergency department treatment rooms and two trauma rooms would be shared.
The new facility would have one operating room and one minor operating room, with nearby rooms for radiology, CT scans and mammography. A mobile MRI unit would be located behind the hospital.
Initial plans called for two drive-thru ambulance bays, but on Tuesday the trustees agreed to add a third drive-thru bay, which allows ambulances to drive in, drop off the patient, and drive straight out.
Hospital staff and service providers would have a separate entrance, giving them privacy from the public, explained Ryan Johansen of BWBR, the firm hired to design the new facility.
Patients would only have to navigate one glass-filled hallway, eliminating what some hospital staff and patients said were confusing hallways in the current building, Johansen said.
The lower level, accessible by stair and elevator, would be located under the inpatient care unit on the east. This area would include administration, cafeteria, loading dock and classrooms.
Johansen emphasized that all patient services — surgery, radiology, lab, rehab, specialty clinics, pharmacy, inpatient care and emergency — would be located on one main level.
Enough land remains for expansion to the north and east for any future hospital or partnering needs.
The trustees OK’d an additional elevator to help with people traffic as well as the larger generator for chilled water.
The final change affects the parking lot. Initially, motorists would have driven directly into the lot, putting them in the path of cars backing out and possible accidents, trustees said. Now, a grass-filled buffer strip will separate the entrance driveway from the parking spaces.
This last glance at building designs solidified the project, Johansen said.
“The better our [designs and bid] documents are, the tighter the bids will be,” he said.
Those bid documents will include two alternates that would change some heavily-traveled roadways from asphalt to concrete for better durability and increased longevity, Johansen explained.
JCRHC is still working with the city of Maquoketa and Jackson County to annex the property into the city, Coleman said, adding that the hospital should take ownership of the proposed property by the beginning of March.
The project is expected to be bid in March. Findorff expects to open, review and award bids by the end of April, and begin construction in May 2019.
If all goes according to schedule, the new hospital should be open in January 2020.