With the county’s support now in hand — after several weeks of negotiations, deliberations and tense hand-wringing — Effingham Hospital can plunge straight ahead in its quest for securing federal financing for its expansion and modernization.
Getting the commissioners to approve a resolution and to resolve to providing the land necessary for the hospital’s plans —3.78 acres for the Alzheimer’s unit and a total of 50,000 square feet of new space for the 40-year-old facility — was a necessary step in the application process for the Build America bonds. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Build American bonds program runs out Dec. 31, closing the window on that line of financing.
“Rick and I have talked daily sometimes, trying to get something that will work,” County Commissioner Bob Brantley said of his talks with Hospital Authority Rick Rafter. “We proved better communication makes things work better.”
“We’ve had several meetings with the hospital,” County Administrator David Crawley said. “Eric Gotwalt and Rusty Ross have worked very diligently to get some of these issues resolved.”
The hospital has been invited to apply and received approval for its certificate of need for the two-story clinical services building to be built as part of its expansion and modernization. HUD, as part of the application review process, will visit Effingham County to take a look at the plans and to gauge the support for what the hospital has in mind.
The road to get to that point has been winding, slow and full of obstacles. Commissioners showed their ire many months ago when hospital officials said they were pursuing the bond option after abandoning a proposal of forming a 501(c)3. Commissioners greeted that proposal with skepticism and Chairman Dusty Zeigler especially seemed to be out of sorts when hospital representatives informed them of that decision at a commissioners’ meeting.
The hospital has vowed to improve communications and relationships between itself and the county commission. Talking directly with the county — and the county listening and talking as well — finally paid dividends for the hospital.
It has big plans in mind, since the expansion will cost approximately $31 million. A viable hospital could be a vital sign for the county. Even as poorly as the economy is faring now, Effingham County is expected to grow. Savannah has three well-regarded and large hospitals, but providing necessary health care services closer to home will be important to the health of the community in a number of ways.
As part of the resolution, the hospital authority will provide quarterly updates to the commissioners on uncompensated care costs. Rafter said the hospital authority and the commissioners need to continue to stay in contact.
“It’s my goal to make sure those lines of communication stay open,” he said.
Communication is a two-way street and we hope the path will be easier in the future for the hospital and the commissioners.