Critical Access Hospital still progressing
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
April 11, 2018
Lorraine Werner, USDA Community Programs Director for Rural Development, traveled from Casper, Wyoming to hold a stakeholder meeting at the Sublette Center in Pinedale on Wednesday, April 11th on the Critical Access Hospital (CAH). The meeting was for information only, and she was the only one who spoke.
Despite only one day’s public notice of the meeting, the room was filled to capacity and included representatives from the Sublette County Rural Health Care District Board, representatives from the Town Councils of Pinedale, Marbleton and Big Piney, two Sublette County Commissioners, staff from the Sublette Center, doctors and Rural Health Care employees, media, and interested public. There were also a couple uniformed officers from the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office in the back who had been asked to be present, although all went orderly.
First, Ms. Werner made an apology for a comment that was made at a recent Town Council meeting where it was apparently stated that Rural Development said they felt the proposed $28.3 million dollar Critical Access Hospital was too much. She said that is not saying they are saying ‘no.’
"I want you all to understand right up front the project is not done. I am going to do everything in my power to make this project happen and break ground for a Critical Access Hospital," she stated.
She conceded that there are concerns.
She said that while most everyone she has spoken with is in support of a CAH, the big questions are ‘how much’ and ‘where?’
She indicated the Sublette Center, and the County Commissioners, are very concerned that if the CAH is built it would take income away from the Sublette Center and they’d ultimately have to close their doors. After reviewing the feasibility study, she indicated the Sublette Center had contacted her again to say their concerns were lessened if the things stated in the feasibility study were done.
Big Piney and Marbleton are concerned that if there is a cash crunch for the Rural Health Care District, the Critical Access Hospital would take services away from the Marbleton/Big Piney Clinic and medical services would be cut to the south county communities even more. The Rural Health Care District has apparently allocated some additional funding to go towards the Marbleton/Big Piney Clinic to restore some services moving forward.
Another big concern is what will happen with the existing $10 million Pinedale Medical Clinic. "If the CAH is built, that building would be technically abandoned," she said. Ms. Werner said she would like to talk with the Sublette County Commissioners to find out what they would charge for the building and land, and also the Town of Pinedale about the ballfields. "How much would it cost to move the ball fields," she posed.
She said the community needs to come together and talk about it and have some "skin in the game." She indicated that time was running out and the community needs to work quickly because we don’t want to throw out work that has already been done. Ms. Werner said she has asked the Rural Health Care District to do some more value engineering to see if they can get project costs down. She also said she needs some research done on grants for Critical Access Hospitals in Wyoming and in the U.S. She suggested perhaps the teachers might let some of our local school kids do some research on CAH grants.
Since this gathering was for information only and no questions were being taken, the meeting ended after only 40 minutes with her assurance to the room that she would do everything she can to make the CAH project sustainable. She invited people to stay afterwards to ask questions.
There will be another public meeting at a later date where the public will have an opportunity to get more information and ask questions.