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Posted on Feb 23, 2017 in News

Plan emerges for medical center

In an innovative effort to move beyond the past, Quincy Valley Medical Center has a conceptual plan to get into a new building as well as pay off debt to Grant County.
It involves the Port of Quincy.
As a work still in progress, the plan can change. But it is big – it changes the outlook for QVMC, Grant County Public Hospital District No. 2’s medical center, which has struggled for years with financial pressures and its aging facility.
The medical center’s leadership, including the district’s board, have worked on finding solutions and have implemented several changes recently. But a larger, sweeping plan that has the backing of community leaders is emerging that is aimed to set the district on better footing for the future.
It has brought a smile to Jerry Hawley, QVMC chief executive officer. He and the chief operations officer, Glenda Bishop, described the developments as “all positive.”
It’s exciting to have “a group working with a common goal,” Hawley said.
The concept is an early product of meetings in the past two months that brought together a range of community leaders as well experts in public hospital districts in Washington to talk about solutions for the hospital district. This solutions group is working toward “assessing and developing a model of health care that would meet the community’s needs and would be sustainable,” Bishop said.
“I am deriving a great deal of encouragement from the fact that we have strong leaders from many, many different organizations in this community and in our region who are committed to a future,” she said.
Brian Kuest, who works in finance for CliftonLarsonAllen in Quincy and is a commissioner on the board of the Port of Quincy, has attended the public meetings of the board of commissioners of Grant County Public Hospital District No. 2, and, like many people who have lived in the area a long time, is well aware of the history of challenges faced by the medical center.
Kuest brought an idea to the solutions group, and the group embraced it. The idea would involve the port in a kind of community partnership that small, rural hospitals these days are turning to in order to remain viable, Bishop said. In this case, the port would sell a revenue bond and enter an inter-local agreement or some other agreement structured to fund construction of a building and pay off the hospital’s debt.
The Port of Quincy is a leading driver of economic development in the Quincy Valley.
The port wants to be “a facilitator for bringing a model to the community that will work,” Kuest said. “We also want to give the community the assurance that the hospital district is going be able to provide quality, sustainable, affordable health care.”

Development plan
The Port of Quincy has a lot of experience with bonds, Kuest said. His estimate is that a revenue bond in the amount of $15 million would be enough, but the bond amount is not determined yet.
Through the agreement that would be crafted between the two special-purpose taxing districts, the port and the hospital district, bond proceeds would relieve Grant County Public Hospital District No. 2 of what it owes to the county treasurer’s office – $3.5 million at the beginning of
this year – and pay for
construction of a facility that the port would own and lease to the hospital.
In the early stage of this plan, the port is the landlord, but, Kuest said, the port would not be involved in management of the hospital – the port is the conduit through which a new facility gets built.
Later, when the hospital district is in a position to do so, it can look at getting an acquisition loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase the building from the port.
This plan is not the same as a plan put forward recently by the hospital that proposed applying for a loan through a USDA program to build a new hospital. Kuest said that the new plan is simpler and faster.

Team effort
Bishop is particularly excited about the work being done in the solutions group and the guidance brought by a recognized expert in this state, Ben Lindekugel, executive director of the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts. She said the group reached out to him and he was eager to help.
“Ben was immediately very willing to jump in to assist,” Bishop said.
Also helping the group is Jody Carona, a consultant who recently completed a feasibility study for QVMC. Carona is widely known in the Washington health care field, Hawley and Bishop said, for strategic planning and needs assessments. Carona was in the Chelan area in October doing some consulting on Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics.
The solutions group has also brought in others from outside Quincy, including from Moses Lake, Ephrata and George, because, Bishop said, what Grant County Public Hospital District No. 2 does affects them as well. Notably, the CEOs from Columbia Basin Hospital and Samaritan Hospital have attended one of the meetings and so did the director of operations of Quincy Community Health Center, Bishop said.
The board of commissioners of Grant County Public Hospital District No. 2 has expressed support of this other group. During a recent board meeting, chairman Randy Zolman praised the group of community leaders for meeting, saying the group is working with the hospital board to create a model for the medical center that will bring positive changes. Board member Anthony Gonzalez also added his take, calling the group’s work very positive.

More changes
Another step in the plan has QVMC finding a regional partner to bring health care services to the Quincy community. That partnering entity could be a specialist or physicians group, for instance.
The solutions group has an assessment going on now that will be used to identify and attract a partner into the new facility with the hospital.
“We don’t look to be in this building alone,” Bishop said.
Two things that do not change in the latest form of the group’s plans are that the hospital district stays intact and the medical center keeps its emergency room.
Hawley says the hospital’s designation as a critical access care facility and an ER of six to eight beds are essential, and Bishop reiterated that Quincy Valley residents have identified the ER as their No. 1 priority for QVMC.
“It’s important to the port and the community from an economic development standpoint,” Kuest said. “In our community here, the ER is critical.”

Next steps
More meetings on assessing health service needs are likely and will inform the search for a regional partner for the hospital and point to facility needs in a new building.
A new medical center probably can’t be built this year, “but we think the process will be in place to move it forward,” Kuest said.
“We as a special-purpose district are … just so excited that we are going to be working with another like-minded district,” Bishop said, referring to the Port of Quincy. The community “can be proud of the leaders who represent them who are saying that this is not just important to the city but it’s important to this whole region.”

Dave Burgess, qvpreditor@gmail.com

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