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Hospital board hears from architects on expansion
In Feb. 24 Issue
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal Editor

The Russell County Hospital Board heard from architects from The Estopinal Group at last week's regular monthly meeting as they gave the board an update on the hospital's proposed renovation and expansion project.

Kyle Wilson and Brad Krohn from the architectural firm spoke to the group, saying the group has been working diligently on the construction documents for the project and that they are about 95 percent complete with that portion of the project.

It has been reported that the expansion would give the hospital around 70,000 square feet of total space.

The board has not decided how much they are willing to budget on the expansion but based on Wilson's projections and previous board meetings, the figure is around the $15-$20 million range. That amount will depend on how much the board will be able to secure from loans, specifically the USDA, or other private sources.

Wilson said not much had changed in the floor plans since the fall, but a few minor changes had been implemented.

New flooring is being looked at that would come in at a higher cost at first but would inevitably be easier and cheaper to maintain, Wilson said. He also told the board the north wing's base bid would have all new electrical and mechanical capabilities as well as an all new head-wall unit.

The east and west wings of the hospital would also be refurbished in the base bid, he said.

"We know patient rooms are of the utmost of importance and taking care of the inpatient side is a priority for the hospital," Wilson said. "We just want to have some flexibility on bid day to get you where you need to be with your budget."

In the expansion, the architects said that more parking would be placed where the helipad is now, with the pad moving to a location at the rear of the hospital. The emergency room would also be relocated to the north end of the addition toward Russell Springs.

"What that is going to do is separate the emergency traffic from your walk-in traffic," Wilson said, also saying that an additional 69 parking spaces will be installed on the north end of the hospital. Wilson said the current plans allow for additional future expansion for the ER, imaging and surgery departments as well as two ICU rooms.

After nearly an hour discussing the proposed expansion and additional details, Wilson said they were almost ready to go out to bid. He said if ground was broke this summer, there is a possibility of some enclosure by next winter.

Wilson projected the total construction time to be 24 months. Board Chairman Chris McQueary added that the board had not decided on a final figure to spend on the project so that until that figure is decided on, the plans stay in wait-and-see mode.

One thing holding the board back on putting a budget out for public knowledge is the board doesn't know how much funding they will receive from USDA to go toward the project, pending the federal budget.

Depending on how much the hospital is able to secure will determine whether they go alternate routes in trying to gain additional funding for the upcoming expansion, according to Alliant Vice President Jeff Buckley.

In other happenings at the meeting:

o In his monthly financial report, CFO Ken Kimsal said the revenue for the month was about 14 percent ahead of budget, with 16 percent ahead coming from inpatient services and 13 percent ahead coming from outpatient services.

"Bad debts have been, most of the time, lower than budget each month and it is again this month," Kimsal said. "For the month we're only about $13,000 over budget and year to date we're under $300,000 there."

Kimsal said salaries were up for the month due largely in part due to an increase in activities but the hospital was still one percent under budget for salaries for the year.

"Our operating income was $68,000 versus a budget of $42,000 so we were ahead of the game in the month of January," he said. "Year to date our operating income is $190,000; we did budget about $303,000 so we're under that."

He said the hospital was sitting at $904,000 on a year to date basis against a budget of $969,000.

"So our bottom line is fairly close to budget," Kimsal said.

Kimsal also added that ER malpractice coverage was coming up again for renewal on March 1. Kimsal then gave a short presentation on how that coverage had decreased in price from $238,000 in 2005 under Hudson to just $53,098 this year under Healthcare Underwriters Group, which equals a big savings for the hospital.

"We've maintained the same coverage over this time period," he said.

o In CEO David Rasmussen's monthly report, he told the board he had been meeting with the physicians in an effort to know them better as he breaks into his new position.

He said in the coming months he would be looking into physician recruitment, specifically another general surgeon.

Rasmussen also said he met with RCH Foundation President Sheldon Stephens and Director Patty Rippetoe about future relations between the hospital and the foundation as well as getting the foundation more in the public eye.

He also said he has spoken with a cardiologist out of Somerset who he would like to get to come to RCH for 2-3 days per week, giving the hospital coverage each day of the week. He also talked of a goal for the hospital to get folks in and out of the ER in two hours or less as well as getting patient satisfaction to at least 95 percent. It currently sets at 93 percent.

"Our goal is to do little things great every day," Rasmussen said.

o Dr. Jerry Westerfield said the new digital mammography has been a success with the number of patients per week jumping from about 18 a week to 30 a week.

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