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LibbyMt.com > News > September 2008 > Plans for new hospital slated for discussion

Kootenai Valley Record. Photo by Kootenai Valley Record.
Kootenai Valley Record
Plans for new hospital slated for discussion
by Brent Shrum, Kootenai Valley Record
September 10, 2008

Upcoming community meetings in Libby and Troy will provide a detailed look at a recent decision by the St. Johnís Lutheran Hospital board of trustees to build a new facility from the ground up.

Informational meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 15 and 16, in the hospitalís conference center at 402 E. Third St. in Libby. The same information will be provided at both meetings. Another meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, at the Kootenai Senior Center in Troy.

The decision to build a new hospital followed the findings of a master plan that evaluated current facilities, said St. Johnís chief executive officer Bill Patten. The projectís goal was to identify future needs and take steps to meet them before things reach a crisis point, Patten said.

"Weíre not in a critical situation today Ė critical in the sense that weíre using duct tape and bailing wire," he said.

The hospital was originally built in 1952 with additions in 1983, 2002 and 2006. The facility is facing a number of infrastructure issues, with an obsolete electrical system thatís being used to its full capacity and patient and operating rooms that donít have the space to meet current design standards. The master plan estimates that the hospital needs 74,000 square feet of space, or nearly 20,000 more than what is currently available.

Adding on to the existing structure is estimated at $29 million, while starting over with a brand new building is expected to cost $33 million, Patten said. And with new construction, the old hospital would still be available for other uses, he said. A portion of the building could be used for an assisted living center, part could be used by the Center for Asbestos Related Disease, and the basement could replace several other facilities now being used by St. Johnís for long-term storage, he said.

The bulk of the money to build a new hospital would likely be borrowed, Patten said, although the hospital foundation has set a goal of raising $1 million for the project over the next two years and a federal appropriation will be sought as "down payment" assistance.

CTA Architects Engineers has been chosen as the architect for the project, and Swank Enterprises, also of Kalispell, has been picked as the general contractor. The Hammes Co. of Denver, which developed the master plan, is staying on to provide support, Patten added.

Construction could begin as early as next summer if everything goes right, Patten said. The entire process from construction to occupancy is expected to take 15 months.

St. Johnís is currently negotiating for a piece of property on which the new hospital may be located, Patten said. He said heís heard several rumors but wonít confirm or deny any of them until a deal is finalized.

"As soon as we know, we will announce it," he said.

St. Johnís will be looking for community input throughout the process, Patten said.

"We want the community to continue to view this as their hospital, and allowing them to have that input is important," he said.

Editorís Note: See the September 8, 2008 edition of the Kootenai Valley Record for the printed version of this story. The Kootenai Valley Record publishes once a week, on Monday, in Libby, Montana. They are a locally owned community newspaper, located at 403 Mineral Avenue in Libby. For in-county and out-of-county subscription information, call 406-293-2424, or e-mail kvrecord@gmail.com.

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