The Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District is awaiting College of the Redwood Board of Trustees approval to purchase the CR site on Sprowel Creek Road for $1.1 million.
“Basically that’s the best site for a future hospital so whether Measure W passes or not, if we’re going to continue hospital services that’s the best site,” Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District CEO Matt Rees said.
Currently Jerold Phelps Community Hospital has to come into compliance with state seismic standards or shut down by 2030. The current building and location would make it too expensive to upgrade into compliance, Rees said. Measure W is a proposed property tax increase to fund a new hospital. It’s up for voter approval and the voting deadline is May 2, Rees said.
The CR trustees gave initial approval at a past meeting but will make the final decision at a meeting tonight. According to the meeting agenda packet, the board previously declared the Garberville instructional site isn’t needed in the foreseeable future.
“The Garberville property was purchased by the College of the Redwoods in 2010. Since then, the district has invested over $1.8 million in the property,” the staff report states.” Thus, the proposed sale price is less than the amount the district paid for and has invested in the site. However, enrollment and fiscal data for the site since it was purchased by the district indicates that there has been and continues to be poor enrollment at the site, resulting in annual operating losses that have a persistent negative impact on the budget.”
CR interim president/superintendent recommends the board give second approval on the sale, the staff report states.
“It just makes sense to buy this property instead of spending two to three times as much buying a different property,” Rees said.
The district shopped around and found that other suitable properties for a hospital would require major overhaul like installing connections to water and electrical services and upgrading roads. Those projects aren’t necessary at the CR site and would cost the district more than the price of the CR site, Rees said.
“I’m hopeful it will go through. They already approved it once, they already declared it surplus property,” he said.
The district has done testing on the site and an architectural report. Rees said plans are to keep the existing structures in place for community and administrative uses.
“We plan on keeping the playhouse at the school which is something the community uses,” he said.
These plans have already been communicated to the CR trustees.
“In these circumstances, the sale of the property would provide a benefit to both districts: The elimination of the on-going budget deficit by College of the Redwoods regarding the site, while making available to the Healthcare District real property that can be used for medical services, including a new hospital that will likely be of great value to the local community,” the staff report states.
If all goes well with the board approval Tuesday night, work on the new site still won’t begin for a while, Rees said.
“Because of California we wouldn’t be breaking ground for about three years,” he said.
But they may be able to open a clinic at the new site in as little as a year and a half, Rees added.
“The new hospital, it would be six years before opening up a facility,” he said.
Rees said it takes at least a year to design a hospital and another two years for the state legislature to approve those designs before work can begin.
He said he hopes to decrease the number of patients that come in for treatment who must be sent to other hospitals both in the county or out of the area.
“We’re looking at purchasing a CT,” Rees said about a cat scan machine that could be available in September or October. “With that hopefully we’ll be able to keep a lot more patients local.”
He has the same hopes for the new hospital, less patients needing ambulance or helicopter rides out of the area. Rees said they plan to add a surgery suite.
“We would have multiple days of surgery a month and have the community benefit,” he said.
Rees said he’s heard community concerns and rumors that hospitals won’t actually have to close due to new seismic regulations.
“This is serious business, hospitals will be forced to close,” he said.
Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.