A big step was made Monday morning to getting Montrose a new hospital that has been in the works for years.
Both U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-Dimock, were in town to announce a $25 million loan to construct a new 2-story 96,000 square foot health care center to replace the 54-year-old hospital now in Montrose.
Ray Wilmarth, chairman of the Endless Mountains Health System’s board, called the announcement “joyous.”
“A community is judged on how well it takes care of its people,” Carney told about 50 persons assembled. “I believe we will very soon be turning the ground on this project.”
Casey underscored that the funds were actually a U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Facilities Direct Loan which is used to finance essential facilities in rural areas.
“In the midst of a difficult period in our nation’s history with some 592,000 people in Pennsylvania out of work, I’m glad to be able to bring some good news,” Casey said. “We have to be affirmative about the programs that are working and move them in the right direction.”
Casey and Carney had been in Montrose about six months ago for a tour of the present facility, and he noted the dedication of its staff, but said they could only do so much with a facility that had not been updated very much in recent decades.
“It’s about time we prepare a facility for the quality health care of the future that our people need now,” Casey said.
Carney added, “As someone who has chosen to raise my family in Susquehanna County, my wife and I know the importance of taking care of one another and this hospital will do that for generations.”
EMHS chief executive officer Rex Catlin said the overall projected cost for the new hospital is $45 million, and a project of its size and scope “requires a strong primary funding source” so he is grateful for the loan.
USDA Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams said Monday the $25 million is among the largest loans his agency has provided in the state with an intent to rebuild infrastructure in a rural area.
He added that it also “will contribute to the Obama administration’s continued effort to turn the economy around and create quality jobs.”
EMHS Executive Vice President Stone noted that while the loan would be the keystone of the new hospital project’s financing, “we still have a lot of work to do in order to complete a capital campaign.”
“These monies allow us to leverage resources now that we didn’t have access to,” Stone said, identifying private foundations or corporate donors which may require matching dollars.
Stone said that in 6-8 months, “I am hopeful that the community could see vertical construction as a reality” on the land EMHS has in Bridgewater Township about two miles east of the present facility.
The new hospital will expand the present emergency room department from two to seven bays and provide for a dedicated infusion care therapy, an expanded operating area and also make available diagnostic tests such as MRIs and in-house mammograms which persons now have to travel to Scranton or Binghamton, N.Y., to get.
The new facility also will have 25 single patient rooms on a second floor, compared to the present facility which has 21 rooms.
Mary Mushala, EMHS Director of Nursing and lifelong Susquehanna County resident, said she found it “very exciting to offer health care under one roof.”
She added, “People who grew up here have been wanting this for so long. As far as I’m concerned it’s a definite go.”
Dr. Hassan Kahlil, a board certified physician who practices medicine at the present Montrose facility, said, “It’s a great day for the area. We’ve been here 12 years. I can now tell my kids it’s going to happen.”
Catlin said the new facility would employ 215 persons compared to the 185 now on the annual payroll.