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Public shares concerns over IU Health

By Katharine Calabro - kcalabro@ftimes.com

Clinton County Commissioners showed their support during Indiana University Health Frankfort’s presentation of the proposed new hospital on Monday morning.

Since last week IU Health Frankfort had opportunities to present the new facility to the city Planning Commission and the Redevelopment Commission. The regular scheduled meeting for County Commissioners gave IU Health Frankfort the chance to proceed with an update for public discussion.

Alongside IU Health Frankfort President Kelly Braverman, County Council President Alan Dunn spoke on behalf of the working group, completed with members of both county and city council who have been actively involved in increasing long-term healthcare.

“This is really our first chance to get to update the county on what has been happening,” Dunn said.

Braverman followed Dunn by presenting the issues around the current facility, which has undergone a study analysis done by IU Health examining why building a new facility is the best option for the county.

With the current facility being overly large and too expensive to maintain for a critical access hospital, Braverman said the new hospital will be built behind the current one making it so patient care will not be disrupted. The new hospital will not hold anymore than 25 beds, and as of now the hospital is averaging a total of 12 beds per day.

Although the 85 bed hospital was successful at one time, now it is requiring more upkeep for unused space.

“We would like to build you a facility that you can be proud of,” Braverman said.

Over time the county has received around $17 million in rent income from Master Lease Agreements. According to Dunn, the county has been diligent in saving a good portion in case there were to ever be a day where the operator discontinued operation over the hospital and decides to terminate the lease.

Along those same lines, if the county were to be relieved from its obligations and needed to buy back assets because of another agreement that proceeded, funds could be freed up for another purpose.

Because $17 million is a lot of money to utilize at one time, the county is working towards a ten year commitment of $1 million up front, followed by $444,000 in payments over the remaining nine years.

Dunn also said in order for IU Health to make this investment, the county has to sign over the land for the project area for $1. He said this transfer of land happens in two phases, allowing for the county to keep possession of the current hospital until the county is able to receive grants to help demolish the building.

“Long story short we will be making a donation of land and a $5 million investment for a $30 million facility in the community,” Dunn said.

The meeting acted as a platform where the public was able to openingly ask questions. Most concerns were not placed around the future amenities the hospital will have, but more the location in general.

This included the hospital helicopter pad, which is going to be placed around housing. However, the current helicopter pad is already around housing, except the hospital has to transfer patients from the helicopter pad to an ambulance and across the street to get to IU Health Frankfort. Moving the helicopter pad will eliminate the transfer.

“To me it’s no different from where it’s at now, other than the fact that people can get there more quickly,” said Josh Uttis, county commissioner president.

“We were near housing regardless,” added Dunn.

In regards to the moving of the helicopter pad, Clinton County Treasurer Carol Bartley gave a personal testimony where she said moving the pad could mean saving a life and could make all the difference for a family.

“....watching him (her husband) get on an ambulance and being taken across the street was some of the scariest moments of my life,” Barley said. “Having a helipad by the ER access can mean the difference.”

Commissioners were not set to vote on the proposed hospital, but just to remain updated in the process thus far. Dunn said a documentation is still in the works but will be given to commissioners soon to have the official form for the new facility.