HCH loan procedure clears two key hurdles

HMC/CAH, owner of Hills?boro Community Hospital, has cleared two hurdles that have delayed the start of construction on its new $13 million hospital facility east of town.

The first hurdle was notification, dated Oct. 19, that the Centers for Medicare & Medi?caid Services had given its preliminary approval to relocate the hospital from 701 S. Main to 103 Industrial Road.

CMS oversees the funding of those two medical-assistance programs.

With that development, USDA notified Mayor Delores Dalke prior to the Oct. 20 meeting of the Hillsboro City Council, that the project has now received its official ?permission to proceed.?

The designation from USDA means HMC/CAH can begin the legal documents for the loan, which normally takes three to four weeks to process, according to a company spokesman.

In an e-mail to Dalke, the spokesman said of the news: ?As far as (we) know this is one of the final steps, but it does seem like we keep having hurdles thrown up. However, with this good news of ?permission to proceed? and our attestation from CMS, we are getting closer.?

The spokesperson declined to estimate when construction might begin. He said before HMC/CAH can solicit construction bids, the company has to finalize the architectural plans, which he estimated to be 95 percent complete.

?This is exciting news,? Dalke said at the city council meeting.?

Mike Ryan, chief executive officer of the local hospital, said the CMS letter is part of the process when a critical access hospital changes location.

?We have to send what?s called a letter attestation, which basically says we are going to continue to operate the same way we operated before,? Ryan said. ?They don?t want a critical access hospital to go out and relocate and somehow take advantage of their status.

?If we?re simply relocating to improve access to services and to be able to do a better job for the community, they?re OK with that.

?CMS will come back after we?ve built the new hospital and make sure we?re doing what we said we would do,? Ryan added. ?They have what they call a ?75-percent test.? We have to keep 75 percent of the same employees, we have to continue to serve 75 percent of the same population. Things like that.

?As long as we continue doing that, there won?t be any problem retaining our critical-access-hospital status.?

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