Commissioners Want Sixth Cent Vote to Fund Surgery Center

Commissioners Want Sixth Cent Vote to Fund Surgery Center

GREEN RIVER – Discussions on the proposed new surgery center continued Tuesday between the Sweetwater County Commissioners and the Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater Board. The biggest hurdle is deciding how to fund the project.

Discussions about building an ambulatory surgery center started approximately two years ago. The MHSC Board and Administration started the process after experts in the field explained patients and providers were going to pay more out-of-pocket costs if surgeries were not done in surgery centers.

The proposed project would have the surgery on the first floor. Office space would be built on the second and third floor. The second and third floors were added because of the continued need for office space and the lack of developable land at the Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County campus. MHSC was paying $330,000 a year in rent before the medical office building was constructed.

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The project has gone back and forth for most of the year. The commissioners voted down the project early in 2015. The concern from the county commissioners is not the project itself, but how it would be financed.

The commissioners have consistently said they would like to see the project go before the voters as a sixth-cent tax. On the other side, the MHSC Board has remained strong about not going back to the voters. MHSC Board Chairman Artis Kalivas reiterated that they wanted to look at other ways to finance it because MHSC has already gone to the voters twice.

“I believe the revenue it (surgery center) generates will pay for itself,” Kalivis said.

Since being voted down by the commission early in the year, the board has looked at different options including inviting the public to meetings to join in the decision process.

Other options the MHSC Board have discussed are financing through bonds, scaling the project back and housing the project off campus.

They have even looked at having a company come in to build the center, then leasing the building from the company after it is complete.

Kalivis explained to the commissioners there are companies who are ready to invest and build the center now because they believe in the project.

While the Commission again on Tuesday told the MHSC Board they were not against the project, each one said adding $50 million of debt was too much for them to feel comfortable with at this time.

“Let’s say you go broke financially,” Commissioner John Kolb said. “It will be this board that will have to make the decision to sell it.”

Commissioner Don Van Matre questioned the timing of the project, asking the board why they had to do it now and why they could not wait until everyone gets a better sense about what the economy will do.

Commissioner Don Van Matre

In the upcoming budget, government agencies are looking at decreases across the board. The state is looking at a $600 million decrease mainly because of the drop in the oil and gas industry. The commissioners also brought this forward.

MHSC Board Member Harry Horn said while that may be the situation on one side, other businesses are prospering in Wyoming. He said local school districts continued to see increases in student numbers. He also questioned why Sportsman Warehouse would be willing to locate to Wyoming if the economy was that bad.

Commissioner Reid West brought up the idea of scaling the project back. Kalivis said he would like to keep that option on the table. Commissioners Wally Johnson, Van Matre and Kolb all said they would not support a scaled-back plan.

Chairman Johnson emphasized it is the financial piece they are worried about, but they are not against the project.

Chairman Johnson

Along with the discussions of finances, Johnson questioned the board about doctors’ contracts. The hospital is included in the county audit, and Chairman Johnson explained he asked the auditors specific questions about MHSC.

Johnson said the auditors explained to him the doctors’ contracts were higher than revenue coming in. He questioned the board about losing money on the contracts, saying doctors are not bringing in the revenue. Board member Dr. Tom Spicer explained that there were other services, such as blood tests and x-rays, ordered by these doctors that do bring in unseen revenue.

Also mentioned were continued comments from residents concerned about MHSC. A letter, read by Johnson, said residents have lost faith in the administration at MHSC. Johnson stressed to the board the concerns they are hearing are not about the board but rather the administration. Kolb and Van Matre agreed with the letter.

Kalivis said he must be involved in different circles, explaining he hears the exact opposite.

MHSC Board of Trustees on hand for the meeting.