ERHC project receives funding from government, community

Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series on the renovation and expansion project at Elk Regional Health Center. ST. MARYS - Elk Regional Health Center (ERHC), set to begin its $10.3 million renovation and expansion in the next month, has pursued several avenues of funding for the project. According to Sam MacDonald, Director of Support Services and Business Development for ERHC, the project was part of Elk Regional's long-term plans, but it was necessary to be fiscally conservative, so the renovation and expansion did not take place when the hospital completed another large-scale modernization project in 2001-2002."Ten years ago, we were planning to do this, but we didn't do it because we didn't have the money," MacDonald said. The project includes constructing a third floor housing 42 new, private medical/surgical/pediatrics rooms with private baths in each; two new, centrally located nurses' stations to oversee each half of the medical/surgical/pediatrics unit; a new, 10-bed Generations Unit; and also renovating part of the existing first floor near the surgery suite and recreating it as a new, more efficient Maternity Unit that includes four obstetrics/gynecology patient rooms, four rooms for labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum, and a dedicated operating room for emergency Caesarean sections. MacDonald noted that between 2000-2010, the country weathered a number of economic setbacks that made it difficult for any organization to consider investing in large-scale projects. After successfully navigating a decade of economic uncertainty that affected the entire country, the hospital and its parent, Elk Regional Health System (ERHS), decided the time was ripe to begin the next phase of its plan. Their first task was to actively seek out grants for the project. "In late 2009, we were happily informed that we were going to be the recipient of a $2.5 million grant from the state Department of Health for this project," MacDonald said, adding that assistance from the office of state Sen. Joe Scarnati helped secure the grant. He presented the good news to the not-for-profit facility's board of directors, who, while encouraged by the amount of grant funding awarded, estimated that the total project cost would come in closer to $10 or $11 million."One of the challenges we faced, well you know, we did get the $2.5 million grant, but we're also in the middle of the most crippling recession since the Great Depression," MacDonald said. "So we thought, 'Can we do this?' We don't want to put it, our hospital, on the line for something that's not going to pay for itself or something we can't handle. "We assessed the situation, and thought early last year, we really need to move forward with this. Let's start talking about a capital campaign." The campaign was divided into three sections: Leadership, Major Gifts and Annual Appeal. "To date, it's hard to give a number that it's at right now because a lot of these are five-year gifts, and some of it is in, you can't really count it yet, but I can report that right now, the total that we have on hand is about $870,000 from these campaigns," MacDonald said. "We're extremely confident that we will exceed the $2.5 million goal. "With the newsletter, it goes out to every household in our service area - if you want to participate in this, $2, $5, $100, you can be a part of this campaign, and we're really pleased with the response." Another major component in relation to funding was a low-interest loan from the United States Department of Agriculture. He said ERHS and ERHC are pursuing this latest project with the ease of mind that both the timing and the finances are right. "It's something that was very much-needed, and it was needed for a long time. If we had tried to pull the trigger on it in 2005 or 2007, we really would have been extending ourselves. So we're really pleased with the way that it went," MacDonald said. "I think that we're pretty confident that we've managed to make this something that our hospital can afford."