Hospital district prepares for building demolition

MARBLETON – Demolition of the Public Health building on the hill across from the Pinedale Cemetery is planned to begin in mid-November, the Sublette County Hospital District (SCHD) reported at its Oct. 26 meeting in Marbleton.

Removing the Public Health building, built in 1978, to provide space for the new critical access hospital and long-term care facility, is the first step in the construction process.

The SCHD Board of Trustees unanimously passed a motion to release $310,000 allowing Layton Construction, the district’s construction manager and general contractor, to carry out three projects – asbestos abatement in the Public Health building, tear the building down and relocate an irrigation ditch on the site.

The $110,000 for the ditch relocation and asbestos abatement is the responsibility of the SCHD while the $200,000 for the demolition will be reimbursed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) loan to the district, confirmed Kari Dewitt, SCHD public relations director and grant writer.

The SCHD is hosting a walk-through of the old Public Health building on Nov. 2. Community members are invited to bid on items remaining in the facility, said Dave Doorn, SCHD administrator.

Individuals and companies do not need to make an appointment to attend the walk-through, said DeWitt. SCHD administration will be on site with forms to make bids and answer questions.

Asbestos abatement in the Public Health building is scheduled for Nov. 8 and Layton will shut off all utilities on Nov. 14, DeWitt told the Examiner. Demolition is expected to follow in mid-November, she added.

Dr. David Burnett, SCHD medical director, asked the board whether the demolition timeline conflicted with the Town of Pinedale’s ordinances and no-dig period.

Members of the SCHD board and administration met with town staff in July and the various permits needed to begin the process were “taken care of,” responded Tonia Hoffman, SCHD board chairwoman.

The project to relocate the Sublette County Public Health offices to its new location next to the Sublette Center at 380 Faler Ave. took place over the week of Oct. 17-21 and went well, Doorn reported.

Public Health reopened to the public on Monday, Oct. 24, with regular office hours.

Doorn credited DeWitt for the hard work she put into making the move possible in a short timeframe.

The SCHD will continue to check in with Public Health staff to ensure its needs are met, Doorn said. The district continues to work on expanding parking to provide off-street spaces that comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, he added.

The Sublette Center also provided temporary offices for the SCHD billing office, Doorn said.

Hoffman, speaking on behalf of the SCHD board, thanked Dawn Walker, Sublette Center administrator, and the Sublette Center board of directors for providing the space and their help in “smoothing the transition.”

Health foundation merger in the works

Following an executive session on Oct. 26, the SCHD board passed a unanimous motion to “extend an offer” to the Green River Valley Health Foundation to merge with the Sublette County Health Foundation.

The motion is “subject to certain terms and conditions” to be ironed out by the SCHD’s legal team.

SCHD trustees voted to form the Sublette County Health Foundation at its May 25 meeting to support the district and critical access hospital and long-term care center project.

A governing body containing members from both the Sublette County and Green River Valley health foundations will oversee the union, Hoffman said.

SCHD and Sublette Center merger – still in the works

Attorneys for the SCHD submitted a draft of the merger agreement between the hospital district and Sublette Center with suggested revisions to the Sublette Center’s attorney, Hoffman told trustees.

Attorneys from both organizations scheduled an in-person meeting for Nov. 1, said SCHD lawyer Lena Moeller. Sitting down and discussing the complicated document face to face “tends to work well,” she added.

SCHD attorney Abbigail Forwood told trustees the suggested revisions were “very reasonable.”

“We are pushing as hard as we can to get the merger done,” Forwood said.

Chartis contract

Trustees approved a contract with The Chartis Group, a health-care consulting firm, to develop a set of policies for the district as it transitions to a critical access hospital.

The contract contains specific details regarding Chartis’ scope of work, outlining how the district’s fee will be used to provide services to meet to the SCHD’s needs, said Mike Hunsaker, chief operating officer for the SCHD and its management partner, Star Valley Health.

The SCHD attorneys were “comfortable” with the contract, Hunsaker added.

The SCHD board passed a motion to engage with Chartis at its Sept. 28 meeting and committed to paying the company’s minimum $125,000 retainer fee.

During the Oct. 26 meeting, Hoffman reiterated the need to “build a strong set of policies” for the SCHD to fall back on.

Chartis offers services in developing up-to-date policies that meet federal and state guidelines on a variety of issues, from patient visitation rights to internal human resources.

Chartis plans to send a consultant to Sublette County in November, Hunsaker said. He described the consultant as an “experienced” nurse with an MBA who had worked well with Star Valley Health.

Additional SCHD news

• The board approved a motion to accept a contract with Partners Company, a fund control agency to “ensure adequate review” of the SCHD’s expenses and invoices on the critical access hospital as required by the USDA, explained trustee Dave Bell, a member of the finance committee.

The contract is pending legal review by SCHD lawyers.

• Trustees approved spending the remaining $250,000 of COVID-19 relief money available through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

The money must be spent by the end of the year, and can be used on “qualified expenses” including salaries and utilities, Bell said.

• SCHD board members and administrators, along with local and state government representatives, continue to lobby the Wyoming State Loan and Investment (SLIB) Board for a $10-million grant for health-care infrastructure available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The SLIB Board will meet to review applications and make final decisions on either Nov. 9 or Nov. 16, Doorn told board members.

• Dr. Michael Lemon, trauma medical director at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, conducted a review of trauma cases at the Pinedale and Marbleton-Big Piney clinics in September. Dr. Lemon was “impressed” with the “great trauma team” employed by the SCHD, said Bill Kluck, EMS director.