USDA holds public meeting about Critical Access Hospital loan process
by Pinedale Online!
February 8, 2018
2/8/18-Editor's Note: We've added a correction to the phrasing of Ms. Werner's description about the public comment she had received regarding the CAH.
A public meeting was held in Pinedale on the evening of Wednesday, February 7th in the Lovatt Room of the Pinedale Library regarding an estimated $28 million loan for the proposed Critical Access Hospital (CAH) in Pinedale. The meeting was held by Lorraine Werner, Community Programs Director of Rural Development with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to discuss the USDA loan process and to answer questions the public may have as it relates to the loan application process. She traveled from Casper to Pinedale to conduct the meeting.
Approximately 130 people attended the public meeting. Ms. Werner told the audience she had received just over 100 emails, letters, faxes and texts from the public regarding the proposed new hospital in Pinedale. She said about 99% of those comments said they wanted to see a new hospital built in Sublette County to improve health care. Correction from Ms. Werner: "I had over 100 emails, phone calls, and letters and 99% were in favor of better medical services." But of those supporting the new hospital, about half wanted to see the proposed new hospital built in the Bloomfield subdivision property on the west end of Pinedale and the other half wanted to see far less money spent by perhaps expanding the existing Pinedale Clinic into a small hospital.
It was pointed out that without the designation of "Critical Access Hospital" it was not possible to bill insurance companies and Medicare the true cost of providing emergency hospital type health care services to patients at our existing clinics since these services presently must be billed as a doctor’s office visit at about 1/10th the amount a hospital could bill for these medical services. At present the SCRHCD is bringing in $3 million/year, but has expenses of $9 million/year, and at that rate the Rural Health Care District will be bankrupt in three years, ultimately unable to provide health care services to the county.
The loan for the construction of the new hospital would be around $28 million, and with interest over the 40-year life of the loan would be about double that amount, which would be a Sublette County taxpayer obligation through the Sublette County Rural Health Care District.
Several members of the audience spoke out and had concerns about the ability of the proposed new hospital to repay the $28 million loan from the USDA.
Lorraine Werner spoke of three questions that must be answered in order to move forward.
1. Can we afford it?
2. How will it affect what we already have?
3. Will it benefit the community?
Ms. Werner said it was important for the community to come together to the point where they have a common vision for what they want to do.
No decisions were made at the meeting. Members of the Sublette County Rural Health Care District Board attended, as well as several of the five Sublette County Commissioners, however none spoke as the purpose of the meeting was for the public to learn more about the USDA loan process and ask questions and for Ms. Werner to receive public input.
Click on this link to hear an audio report about the meeting from Bob Rule, KPIN 101.1 FM Radio: USDA public meeting held about Critical Access Hospital loan process (2.6MB, 2:50 min. mp3 audio file)