Texas County Memorial Hospital in Houston, where a major expansion is planned.

The Texas County Memorial Hospital board of trustees voted unanimously last week to move forward with a $17.48 million bond project to build a new core hospital.

The proposed 38,000 square foot expansion will be the largest project – financially and structurally – in the hospital’s 50-year history. Additionally, it will be one of the biggest construction projects undertaken in Houston.

Early this year, board members identified the need for a multi-level hospital expansion to the current facility to address urgent issues in heavily utilized patient care areas. The vote to consider a bond project expansion is the culmination of months of work including a debt capacity analysis by UMB Bank of Kansas City, the hospital’s current bondholder, and by BKD LLC of Springfield, the accounting firm that annually audits the hospital. HMN Architects in Springfield developed a master site plan for expansion.

“What began with the recognition that the hospital emergency department was in need of an overhaul has led to the realization that many of our heavily utilized patient areas are in need of updates technologically and structurally,” Wes Murray, chief executive officer at TCMH stated.

According to the documents prepared by HMN as part of its work, some of the mechanical equipment in the older portions of the hospital is reaching the end of its “useful life.”

“We can make things look good on the outside, but we may begin to have serious mechanical issues in the future,” Murray said. “I would rather put our money into a new core hospital for our patients than in continuing to fix up inefficient and outdated areas.”

Murray noted that the administrative team and other hospital staff recently toured hospitals under construction in Lamar and Carthage. Both new hospitals will replace facilities that were built 60 and 100 years ago, respectively.

Murray said that as he toured the hospitals under construction and listened to fellow CEOs talk about the environment the new hospitals would provide patients, he thought, “Our people in Texas County deserve what the people of Barton and Jasper County are getting.”

Doretta Todd-Willis, director of nursing at TCMH, also toured the hospitals being constructed in southwest Missouri.

Omanez Fockler, board member and a nurse at TCMH for many years, said, “A hospital is all about patient care. We need to enhance the atmosphere for patients and the family members of patients.”

Murray noted that while previous TCMH construction projects have been done to enhance patient services and care, “We are at the point where patient care needs and patient expectations have changed.”

The proposed emergency department addition would include an urgent care track and completely enclosed private patient rooms. The radiology addition would consolidate the department to eliminate patients moving down public corridors for radiologic procedures. The medical surgical department would have private rooms with attached bathrooms with showers to increase patient privacy and comfort.

Dr. Steve Hawkins, vice chief of the TCMH medical staff, noted that patients want rooms where their families aren’t intruding on other patients in the same room.

“Our patient rooms don’t compare to what’s available in Springfield or other areas,” he said.

Hawkins stated that the hospital medical staff is very supportive of the proposed expansion.

“Our emergency department is outdated, and we certainly need a new medical surgical and nursing area,” he said.

Hospital board members and administration also believe that new construction and technology will assist the hospital in its ongoing quest to recruit physicians to work in Texas County.

“The young professionals we’re trying to recruit want modern and updated places to work,” Fockler said. “We need to be on the cutting edge for a rural community.”

Based on the debt capacity analysis from UMB Bank and BKD, TCMH is able to take on the additional debt required to build the new core hospital while maintaining current bond covenants. UMB Bank recommended a 25-year, fixed-rate, tax-exempt revenue bond of $17.48 million with an equity contribution by the hospital of $600,000.

“This is going to stretch us financially,” Murray said. “But we can do this without asking for a tax levy.”

Murray will begin traveling throughout the county relaying the expansion plans to county residents. The TCMH Healthcare Foundation will also begin work on a capital campaign to assist in furthering future developments at the hospital.

“We want our patrons to know that we are willing to assume this kind of debt to better our community hospital,” Murray said, “but we also want their support of our community hospital.”

Murray thanked the board for continuing to support the process of improving the hospital. “Let’s project for another 50 years with a new core hospital,” he said.

The next step for TCMH and the expansion project will be for HMN Architects to spend intensive time planning with personnel in the emergency, medical surgical and radiology departments as well as in planning with administration to draw up blueprints that fit the hospital’s current needs and that anticipate future growth.

In other hospital news, Murray reported that the former business office building located behind the hospital emergency room has been entirely gutted. It will become an office annex housing the hospital’s new sleep studies lab, Hospice of Care offices and the office of Deborah Belt-Kell, professional counselor. Renovation should be complete in a few months.

Linda Pamperien, chief financial officer at TCMH, reported a positive bottom line of $34,556 for August. The hospital’s year to date balance is $321,832.

The average daily census for the month was 16.

Pamperien also reported that a new auditing standard called “risk assessment suite” would be in place during the 2007 audit. This auditing procedure will take a more in depth look at internal controls in the organization being audited, meaning the hospital 2007 audit will take longer and be more in depth.

The audit for the current fiscal year, 2007, is the first year risk assessment suite will be in place.

Present at the meeting were Murray, Hawkins, Todd-Willis, Pamperien, Joleen Senter Durham, director of public relations; and board members Jane Kirkwood, Fockler, Janet Wiseman and Larry Southern. Board member Mark Forbes was not present.

The next meeting of the TCMH board of trustees is at noon Tuesday, Oct. 23, in the downstairs meeting room of the hospital.

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