Many components of Geary Community Hospital’s infrastructure are in need of repair or replacement, according to an assessment Henderson Building Solutions completed and presented at last week’s county commission meeting.
The assessment, which cost $70,000, found that the equipment and systems in the hospital are unable to maintain space pressurization, temperature, humidity and air exchange rates, the fire sprinkler system does not cover areas in the hospital, degrading waste and vent piping are in several areas and much of the equipment is beyond its expected life cycle.
Henderson Building Solutions reported that deferred maintenance has contributed to equipment passing its life cycle and that much of the equipment in the older portions of the building haven’t been updated since it was completed in 1967.
The overall infrastructure grades given to each category are poor for mechanical, fair for electrical, poor for plumbing, fair for medical gas, fair for fire protection (where it exists) and poor for elevators.
The company split the tasks into immediate needs and near-term needs in the presentation. Nick Lynch, director of pre-construction, suggested to the commissioners and hospital board of trustees that those tasks categorized as immediate needs be completed within the first year.
Immediate needs include sprinklers on the first, second and third floors, removing all hazardous mechanical and plumbing material, fixing TAB and pressurization, medical gas service valve, sanitary waste and storm draining and updating the elevators.
The company estimated the total cost of the immediate work will be around $12,390,500 when accounting for 10% potential contingency costs.
Leon Osbourn, member of the hospital board of trustees and president of Kaw Valley Engineering, said he believes the immediate needs do not present any current hazard to the public.
Henderson Building Solutions presented a four-year summery for repairs and replacements in the building with the immediate needs within the zero to one year time frame. The company estimated work placed in the one to two year time frame will cost $6,897,700 and the work placed in years three to four will cost $8,567,950.
The estimated grand total of the four-year plan is $27,856,150.
The Geary Community Hospital Board of Trustees hired Henderson Building Solutions to make the assessment because the hospital has been running into maintenance issues lately, Theresa Bramlage, chair of the board, said.
Last year, they had to replace the roof and ran into costs repairing the boilers and generator as well. Bramlage said the board wanted a full assessment to discover what needed done with the whole building.
Trish Giordano, chair of the Geary County Commission, said that because the county owns the building and grounds of the hospital, the county is responsible for the repairs. She said she is unsure why so much of the maintenance was deferred in the past, but said she wants there to be better communication set up between the county and the hospital regarding maintenance in the future, especially if they decide to continue with the recommended plan.
“It’s very important to the community for us to have a quality hospital,” Giordano said. “What I would like to see if this stays a county hospital is to have more oversight over what monies we are giving them and what they are doing with it.”
Giordano said she believes the best way to move forward is for the board of trustees and the commissioners to hold a work session together to discuss the issues and cost of the repairs. She said the board of trustees voted at its Tuesday meeting last week to meet with the county commissioners about the subject.
All three county commissioners said they believe having town hall meetings or other means of communication with the public will allow greater insight about what the best decision is going forward and allow transparency regarding the costs.
“I think the public needs to be involved at every point of this,” Tyson said. “The public should have answers to questions (about the hospital), especially if we are going to ask the public to be on board with trying to fix the hospital.”
The county commissioners’ goal is to do as much work on the hospital as they can without impacting the taxpayers by applying for grants and other methods of funding, Giordano said, but she said she is unsure just how much funding they will be able to find to cover the high costs.
Cecil Aska, vice chair of the hospital board of trustees, said initially he was shocked by the total cost of the repairs and that the next step is to look at all the options, especially grants, and to put together a plan for moving forward.
With the repairs needed and the costs associated with them, Giordano, Aska and Bramlage said they believe there is a slim change that any entity would buy the hospital, but county commissioner Keith Ascher said he believes selling is one of the viable options, with the incentive being that the county would still be responsible for paying the remainder on the bonds.
“How much money can the taxpayers absorb? People say that we can’t lose our hospital, but depending on your definition of what a full-blown hospital is, I’m not so sure we’ve actually had a hospital for a period of time,” Ascher said. “So much more research needs to be done before we make any decision on what direction we want to go in.”
As of now, they have not made any decisions, but Giordano and Bramlage said they would like the work sessions between the county commissioners and hospital board of trustees to happen as soon as possible. They said those discussions will likely occur after the Thanksgiving holiday.