HGH prepared to send expansion out to bid

WINNEMUCCA — The expansion of Humboldt General Hospital is about to enter the first phase, so Hospital Administrator Jim Parrish and Peggy Lindsey, who’s in charge clinics and physician recruitment, went before local governing boards to update representatives on the project and to answer questions.

The $10 million expansion will go out to bid next week and Hospital Board Trustees may open bids by the end of May. Parrish said the architect has already received phone calls from potential contractors across the western US.  It’s a good time for the project, he added, because current construction costs are low.

The expansion will add some much-needed physician office space, a walk-in clinic, and a waiting area for the doctor’s offices. The project may take as long as two years to complete.

On the backburner are $980,000 in improvements that may or may not go, which includes a remodel of the storage area and a fitness center for HGH employees.

The walk-in clinic received very positive feedback as it’s expected to reduce some of the traffic through ER from folks who need basic medical care but who don’t have personal physicians or whose personal physicians can’t accommodate an appointment right away.

Parrish noted if a person has a sore throat that may be strep-related, the person could go to the walk-in clinic for a basic test and prescription, and it will cost significantly less than an ER visit.

Parrish said he anticipates the clinic will have basic, fixed pricing for walk-in services.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Winnemucca City Council, Paige Brooks questioned whether or not the hospital would be able to accommodate more patients in  the hospital or seniors for assisted living.

Parrish replied in the negative but followed up and reminded the council this is just the first of what is expected to be a three-phase expansion and there will be other considerations down the road towards issues such as expanded senior-living.

HGH is currently licensed to have 22 patient beds and as a Critical Access Hospital are limited to 28 beds.  HGH averages about seven to eight patients in-hospital, he said.

The real change with patient rooms will be the transition from semi-private rooms to private rooms.  There are many reasons this, not the least of which was more stringent sanitation considerations and federal legislation that protects patient’s privacy.

Parrish said the additional physician-office space has long been the goal of the Hospital Board and the community with the goal of retaining physicians long term.

Parrish assured representatives that taxes would not be raised as a result of the expansion.  Because they realized a need for expansion for more than a decade, they’ve been tucking money away and currently have about $28 million on hand.

However, the $28 million is not reserved entirely for expansion because hospitals must keep cash in reserves.  Currently they have enough cash on hand to keep the hospital going for 393 days – more than a year — without any revenue.  They’re goal is to reserve 225 days worth of cash-on-hand, but the US average is 110 days.

Whether they’ll pay for the entire expansion with cash and risk depleting resources, or whether the expansion will be paid for with a bond, has not been decided.

Mayor Di An Putnam asked if the expansion would represent additional job-opportunities locally for subcontractors, but that is unknown.  City Attorney Kent Maher explained there were a limited number of contractors who could be bonded for this amount, which did not include any local contractors, and the contractors hire their subcontractors.

There may be some inconvenience for people coming to use the hospital but staff will work to mitigate those inconveniences and thoughtful consideration will be given to the safety of the public, Parrish said.

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