This time last year, officials at The Memorial Hospital were predicting they would break ground on a new hospital this summer.
But community concerns and financial setbacks have officials speaking in more conservative tones.
Hospital Administrator Randy Phelps said the goal was to have the financing in place so that ground could be broken in July 2003. Phelps estimated that construction would take 24 months.
July has come and gone and ground has yet to be broken. In fact, the decision on a site for the new hospital is still up in the air.
The architect and the project manager are finalizing cost estimates for each of the five proposed sites for the new hospital, Phelps said.
Those estimates will then be presented to the board of trustees, most likely in the form of a factual report with no recommendations.
The board will not make a final site decision without engaging the community in some fashion, Phelps said.
Community concerns contributed to delays in the replacement hospital project. In the fall of 2002, hospital board members were pursuing plans to secure financing from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the construction of the new hospital. These plans, which were based on the idea that the new hospital would be built on the same site as the current hospital, were shelved when residents pleaded with the board to consider other sites.
Alternative sites have been discussed, and the project manager, Hammes Company of Lakewood, worked to prepare reports detailing the costs associated with each of the sites.
In May, Hammes recommended two of the five sites be removed from consideration. The current TMH site on Russell Street would likely disqualify it from HUD funding because of its location in a 500-year floodplain. "Moreover, strong political opposition has risen since the site does not have adequate room for future expansion," Hammes' report stated.
The other site Hammes recommended be cut from consideration is the Kawcak property across the street from the Public Safety Center on First Street. According to Hammes, the property's surroundings, including its location on a hazardous material transportation route are not conducive to a hospital.
Lately, TMH's financial condition has forced the hospital to reassess its priorities.
"Financial performance has deteriorated," Phelps said.
Factors contributing to the decline include state budget cuts, a dwindling economy, loss of the only nursing home in the community, and the cost of recruiting and retaining quality professional staff.
Phelps said the first priority is getting hospital operations back in order. Pressure is not so much on deciding on a construction site as it is on hospital operations, restoring the nursing home and establishing gynecology specialist Dr. Michael Crane's practice. Currently, no gynecologists have practices in Craig.
In the July edition of TMH's newsletter Phelps said, "The decline and closing of the community's nursing home has had and will continue to have a profound negative impact on the operations of the hospital."
In fact, TMH estimates the gross revenue stream from Valley View Manor residents to be $750,000. With the nursing home gone, Medicare reimbursements for treatment of nursing home patients also are gone.
Within 30 days, the hospital board expects to receive cost evaluations from Hammes. In the best case scenario, pre-applications for HUD financing will be prepared this fall, according to the hospital's newsletter.
The Memorial Hospital of Craig Foundation raised $310,000 for the new hospital, but the current campaign is on hold until a site is selected, said Pam Thompson, TMH community relations director. It is challenging to raise money when the plans aren't finalized. Some grants the foundation plans to apply for require more information than the foundation has at this point, Thompson said.
Thompson said the foundation's goal is to raise $2 million for the replacement hospital.