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From left, Laura Bucholz, Sonja Collamer and Teense Wilford presented the Saratoga Critical Access Hospital project update to the Encampment Senior Center lunch crowd on Thursday.

SARATOGA – “We already have verbal commitments for three-fourths of the matching funds needed to qualify for the $17.5 million loan that is being applied for from the USDA,” said Laura Bucholz.

This loan will be used to build a 25-bed critical access hospital (CAH) in Saratoga.

Bucholz is the vice-president of the Corbett Medical Foundation and a volunteer leader on this project.

This statement came early in the presentation given at the Encampment Senior Center on Thursday to discuss the progress being made toward the building of this CAH for the citizens of the Upper Platte Valley.

Bucholz attended the luncheon along with other leaders, Teense Wilford and Sonja Collamer to show the initial plans and answer questions about the project to the 20-plus people who attended.

“There will be no vote on this project. No new local taxes or assessments will be levied to pay for this project, or to operate this new medical facility,” said Wilford. “It is a private deal that will be paid for and funded by private and Federal monies.”

A down payment has already been made on the five-acre building site located on Wyo. highway 130, 230 between the U.S. Forest Service complex and the Whistle Pig Saloon, just south of Saratoga. This property has direct highway access and is close to the airport, said Wilford.

The application documents and required filings have begun to be submitted to qualify this medical project for the 30-year building loan that is available from the USDA Rural Development Office.

Among the filings already submitted are the financial feasibility study and a market analysis done earlier this year by BKD, “One of the nation’s leading healthcare accounting firms.”

These studies have been turned in to the USDA as required, for their analysis. The opinion of these studies says, “We can afford to have a facility such as this here,” said Collamer. “The final line on the financial page shows numbers in the black.”

The initial exploratory committee, the Platte Valley Healthcare Sustainability Project, is being reorganized into a 501©(3) nonprofit company with a new name and some new faces.

The necessary paperwork for this 501©(3) status has been filed with the Federal Internal Revenue Service and it has been accepted. Approval is expected within the next 90 days, said Collamer.

This new organization will be the sole owner of this CAH facility. No local town or county government will own or be able to control this new hospital. These governments will not even have a seat on this new board, according to Bucholz. This company and facility will be subject to the oversight and supervision of the USDA, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and the state of Wyoming.

This CAH building size is set at 42,000 square feet, said Collamer. The cost is expected to be $390 per square foot, for a total estimated cost of $22 million.

Two initial artist renderings designed by Hgfa Architects of Billings, Mont. were presented and discussed. They show this building’s location along the highway and a detail of the internal layout of the facility.

This new 25-bed CAH facility will contain 20 beds for the current nursing home residents and provide room for all its other services, including physical and occupational therapy. It will also incorporate the current primary care clinic operating in the Corbett Building, with expanded services. This new CAH will also add a “24-hour walk-in emergency care” facility, with 3-5 hospital beds for short term stays.”

A general contractor to build this critical access hospital has been hired from among the four companies who applied, said Collamer. Sletten Construction Co., headquartered in Billings, Mont., with an office in Cody, was selected as a company that specializes in commercial buildings like healthcare facilities.

Construction is expected to begin next spring and will continue for 15 months, with occupancy expected to begin in the fall of 2021, said Collamer.

When completed, a management company will be hired by the 501©(3) to run this new CAH facility. The employees, however, will work for the 501©(3) owners – not the management company, said Bucholz. This would permit the management company to be changed without affecting the staff’s job security.

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