South Peninsula Hospital and the Kenai Peninsula Borough are underway with two very important projects.
The first is a replacement of the air handling system in the operating rooms. Originally installed in the 1970s, this 40-year-old antiquated system is no longer adequate for the operating rooms. In addition to old technology, the demand on the system has nearly tripled in the last 18 years, with annual surgeries increasing from 660 in 1997 to more than 1,560 last year. Additional personnel and specialty equipment fill the rooms as more and more specialists offer their services in an effort to meet the demands of the residents. And record-breaking summer temperatures add to the pressure on the already struggling air handling system.
The bids for architect and engineering services are under review. The system will be designed this fall, and construction and install should take place in time for a fully functioning system by early next summer.
The second project is the expansion and renovation of Homer Medical Center, the busiest primary care practice in the southern peninsula. Open six days and two evenings a week, Homer Medical cannot keep up with the demand of the residents it serves. Over the last three years over 9,000 residents from the southern peninsula received care at Homer Medical at least once, plus the more than 1,000 visitors, triple the number the clinic was designed to serve over thirty years ago. It is not uncommon to wait weeks to get an appointment, and dozens are on the new patient wait list.
Access to care was identified as a priority in recent community health needs assessment. Since the partnership with the hospital, more providers have been added, including family practice, ob/gyn and behavioral health, and hours extended to include evenings and weekend.
We currently have seven providers on staff, but only five can work at any one time due to the limited exam rooms in the building. Adding exam rooms would allow us to fully utilize our health-care staff and recruit additional providers to meet the growing demand of the community.
In addition to seven new exam rooms, the imaging and laboratory areas will be enlarged, the waiting room expanded, a new roof will be put on the existing building and the parking lot improved. The project should be complete in summer 2017.
The combined cost of the projects is estimated at $4.8 million. Financing these projects through general obligation bonds is the least expensive route, saving upwards of $300,000 over other forms of financing.
Service area voters will be asked on Oct. 4 to approve general obligation bonds to fund these two projects. The annual debt service payment is estimated at $370,000 over a 15-year period. This equates to an equivalent mill rate of .21 mills. Based upon current assessed values, the Kenai Peninsula Borough administration does not see any need to change the current mill rate.
Feel free to call me with any questions. I can be reached at 235-0397.
Derotha Ferraro is the director of public relations for South Peninsula Hospital.