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September 30, 2014

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County Government:

Grant helps Boulder City Hospital stay afloat

Despite some territorial squabbling, Clark County commissioners approved a $250,000 grant Tuesday that will help pay for an expansion at the nonprofit Boulder City Hospital.

The issue: Commissioners discussed whether to turn an already approved loan to the hospital into a grant that won’t need to be paid back.

The vote: Approved 5 to 2, with commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Tom Collins in opposition.

What it means: With the $250,000 grant from the county in hand, the Boulder City Hospital can proceed with its planned expansion to add a new 10-bed geriatric psychiatric wing that will serve seniors with mental illnesses.

The county’s contribution covers only a small portion of the overall renovation, but it was a critical show of local support required by a low-interest $14 million United States Department of Agriculture loan the hospital will use to pay for the vast majority of the project.

In addition to adding the in-patient psychiatric unit, the renovations will also provide much-needed modernization to the hospital that was built in 1973, including improvements to the emergency room. The hospital will also add a new 10-bed acute rehabilitation unit and eight more long-term care beds.

Hospital CEO Tom Maher said the renovation will transform an organization that was on the brink of bankruptcy less than two years ago.

“It’s a complete renaissance for a hospital that has been in jeopardy of closing,” he said. “It’s like getting a new hospital for the community.”

The 63-bed independent hospital has lost an average of more than $800,000 per year since the recession hit, up from an average annual loss of $550,000 between 2000 and 2007, Maher said earlier this year.

The only hospital in Boulder City has been stung by higher operating costs and decreased patient volume. Its proposed tax-financing district, which would have generated about $750,000 of revenue a year for the hospital, was rejected by voters in 2008.

The commission initially agreed in March to provide $250,000 as a loan to the hospital to pay for predevelopment costs for the renovation. After county staff and hospital officials were unable to work out financing terms, Commissioner Marybeth Scow, who represents Boulder City, pushed to award the funding as a grant, similar to other outside agency grants the county gives out each year.

Two commissioners, Collins and Giunchigliani, expressed reluctance awarding the funding to the hospital over concerns that it wouldn’t benefit the broader county.

“Do I think Boulder City Hospital is necessary to Boulder City? Yes. Does it assist us in town or University Medical Center? Not really; it’s just too far out,” Giunchigliani said. “It makes me think we’re being asked to subsidize from Clark County taxpayers to a body that doesn’t really benefit Clark County taxpayers.”

Scow disagreed, arguing that the new geriatric psychiatric unit will especially benefit the entire valley, which currently has a limited number of beds for mentally ill seniors at two hospitals and two standalone facilities.

“This is huge for Boulder City, but it really does impact the whole county,” she said. “This will be another facility we don’t have many of to help the elderly.”

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