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Memorial Medical Center New Hospital Project Update, 1/3/18
Wednesday, January 03, 2018


    -Memorial Medical Center:  Small Hospital, Big Difference, Brighter Future!  Back in November of 2016, Memorial Medical Center announced they are in the process of building a new $40 million facility to continue to serve the health care needs of Clark County and the surrounding area.  The new facility is expected to be completed by the spring of 2020.
    In order to keep the community informed, here’s the latest on the progress of the project: 
    “17 months ago MMC was notified by our auditors that Memorial Medical Center (MMC) became eligible for a governmental program through the USDA called Community Facilities Direct Loan Program.  Our eligibility was based not only on our rural location but also the tremendous work our 250 employees that resulted in our first positive operating margin in 5 years.   MMC is still on track for a May 2018 groundbreaking ceremony and completion winter 2019.  As a healthcare administrator that sits on regional and national boards, Neillsville is in the minority for a small rural town to be on the hosting end of a 60 million dollar campus project (40 million MMC + 20 million Neillsville Care and Rehab) that is not tax supported.  Actually over the past several years there have been over 80 rural hospital closures nationwide.
    For the past 6 months we have been working with supportive city officials to identify steps to annex our proposed site on River Avenue.  The sewer plan for the project is one of the last steps to secure funding.  Our annexation journey has been focused on two consistent themes with common council, 1.  To protect the taxpayers of any expense now or in the future and 2.  Keep the environment safe.  At the December 22nd utility meeting MMC made a third sewer proposal that met all above requirements.  The discussion among utility/council members resulted in a request for the city attorney to inquire if MMC could access sewer without annexation.  Since then, MMC was informed by the city attorney that this can be accomplished with a passing of an ordinance.  The result of the passing of such an ordinance would keep this project in the town of Pine Valley vs. being annexed into city limits.  MMC is relying on the suggestions of the utility/council members and desire to take the best steps for all concerned.
    Any action that is recommended must be timely.  It is important that MMC move efficiently on this construction project and cannot get delayed.  The professional clinical staffs, consisting of medical providers, nurses, therapists and technologists are in demand throughout the region, and the idea of working in a technologically advanced facility helps retention and recruitment of trained employees.  Timing also provides a platform for our medical center to be sustainable financially for many years to come.”
    Memorial Medical Center is also answering any question you may have like this one:
     "Q:  Why a new facility?   
    A:  Memorial Hospital Inc. was erected in 1954 by then President of the Board Herbert M. Smith and funded federally through the Hill Burton Act of 1946 to expand services to low populated communities.  Medicine at that time was delivered predominantly through inpatient care.  Patients routinely would be admitted, diagnosed and treated spanning over several days or weeks and insurance companies dictating care was non-existent.  It was common for MMC to be at capacity with its 34 hospital beds and 198 nursing home beds.  Today through advances in technology, specialty care and insurance oversight, care is delivered mostly on an outpatient basis.  In 2016, 94% of patient volume at MMC was delivered as an outpatient however the majority of our square footage is designated for hospital use.  On a daily basis, MMC experiences a shortage of clinic and procedure rooms but have empty inpatient beds.  Regulations do not allow us to utilize hospital designated space for outpatient space and the cost to remodel and meet new codes would be cost prohibited."
    "Q:  What are we building?
    A:  Our vision for MMC is to be the medical campus that caters to advanced outpatient services such as primary/specialty care, diagnostics, same-day surgery, wellness/rehabilitation and comprehensive programs such as cancer and heart.  Our inpatient bed capacity will decrease from 25 beds to 16 beds however our operating rooms will increase from 1 to 2 suites.  Many people have to drive to over 30 minutes to receive specialty outpatient services that MMC could provide with new space.  MMC is currently in conversations to partner with specialists from Marshfield and Eau Claire to deliver those service in our new building locally.  The opportunity to host additional specialists on a consistent basis with the right technology has been exciting for both MMC and the Marshfield Clinic.  In addition, the new building will improve technology for our trauma program, potentially adding a community wellness center and continue to support a new 50 bed skilled nursing facility with a short term rehabilitation program and assisted living center."
    "Q:  How are we able to build?    
    A:  Financials continue to improve, gross has increased 26% since 2013 and we average 100 new patients per month for a variety of services.  As a result, MMC has qualified for a USDA hospital replacement loan available for rural service areas, similar to the program the 1954 MMC administration took advantage of.  Our strategy as an independent organization is to deliver modern medicine you need locally by enhancing our current services and expanding our scope of services through partnerships."
    "Q:  Since MMC just renovated for an Assisted Living about 6 years ago, are they taking this with them or are they giving that up to Neillsville Care & Rehab? What benefit would they have in keeping it?
    A:  MMC is currently discussing with Grant Thayer, President of Neillsville Care and Rehab, the details of the future campus.  We anticipate a brand new assisted living center being adjacent and utilizing common services as the skilled nursing home.  As residents in assisted living often needing skilled nursing care, we anticipate Neillsville Care and Rehab operating the assisted living center”
    “Q:  Where is the new facility going to be located?
    A:  If all goes according to plan, at 3700 River Avenue.”
    "Q:  Why are we building outside on River Ave?  
    A:  MMC identified six potential sites for the new medical center.  Rankings were completed using eleven criterions-and River Ave was among the top 2 sites.  In February, MMC’s civil engineer met with the city and we identified the potential of expanding city sewer under the river, however MMC would need to cover the cost.  River Ave provides space to expand into a medical campus, has visibility/access to route 10 and even with investments of necessary permits this site is within our budget."
    "Q: Do you know what's going to happen with the old facility?
    A: Not yet. They do have some time to start to identify potential suitors for the building. They're hoping that somebody will find an interest in this to better the economy of Neillsville. They've had a few preliminary talks with a few interested parties. All very exciting; however, they've asked not to be revealed at this time as they are still seeing how feasible it is for them."
    "Q: What's going to happen to the loan acquired by MMC through the City of Neillsville?
    A: Their current debt they have to do their internal renovations is on hold. So, they currently have 80% of that loan still sitting in the bank. Part of the USDA Loan Process is they're allowed to refinance all of their current debt. So, as they successfully receive this loan, they will then pay off all their debt, including the loan that the city assisted them to receive. By first or second quarter, probably second quarter of 2017, all those debts will be forgiven."
    If you have any questions you'd like answered, feel free to submit your questions to WCCN's News Director by e-mail or contact form.  Or you may contact MMC's CEO, Ryan Neville.

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