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March 03, 2011 8:17 am

EDITORIAL: Bond sale will allow West Park Hospital project to proceed

Written by Ilene Olson

Last week’s sale of bonds to allow an extensive expansion and renovation project to begin at West Park Hospital is good news — particularly in Cody, but in all of Park County as well.

The $33 million bond sale will provide $26.2 million for the construction of a new emergency room and entrance to the hospital, as well as renovation of the imaging, laboratory and patient financial services area, with another $4.6 million to pay off the balance on the Cathcart Health Center.

While county voters disagreed in August with a proposal to pay for the project by a 1-cent sales tax, most expressed support for the project itself.

After the tax proposal’s defeat, the West Park Hospital board demonstrated its continued dedication to the building project by proceeding with the bond sale.

One might wonder why the board didn’t first attempt a bond issue vote, in which taxpayers in the hospital district could have voted on whether to increase their property taxes to help pay for the building project. That method was cited frequently during pre-election debate as the most appropriate way to raise money for the needed hospital expansion.

Board members chose not to take that route, thereby avoiding further delay in getting the project started and avoiding another possible defeat at the polls.

Only time will tell if that was the best decision. The hospital now faces a $30 million debt that will take 30 years to pay off. But, thanks to the expansion and renovation that money will pay for, West Park Hospital also will be positioned to provide quality health care for the community in an up-to-date facility that should serve it well into future.

The  board also plans a third building phase at some point in the future to renovate the intensive care unit of the hospital.

Despite the specific purpose tax proposal’s failure last year, WPH Board Chairwoman Melissa Fraser said she remains committed to helping Park County’s communities work together to facilitate quality health care throughout the county. She urged others to do the same.

Fraser said that cooperation will become increasingly important and challenging in years to come as the health care reform law is implemented, and as medical practices and technology continue to evolve.

And she is right. That kind of cooperation would benefit everyone in Park County.

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