CODY, Wyo. — West Park Hospital's board of directors approved a $33 million bond sale late Wednesday night, clearing the way for the medical center to begin its long-sought expansion and renovation project.

West Park Hospital CEO Doug McMillan said Thursday that with the bonds now issued and sold, the hospital will begin razing the 50-year-old Coe Medical Office Building.

Once the facility is gone, McMillan said, construction will begin to add and renovate more than 110,000 square feet on the medical campus.

"We've seen a lot of growth over the past couple of years," McMillan said. "We've positioned ourselves pretty well with the growth we've achieved and our financial position to move forward with a project of this size."

McMillan said the bonds will cover around $26.2 million for the modernization project. Combined with financial reserves, the remainder of the bonds will be used to pay off the hospital's Cathcart Health Center, which opened in 2009.

McMillan was pleased with Wednesday's news, saying the effort to modernize the hospital began back in 2006 when it completed its master plan.

"We've been in the design and development phase for about two years now," McMillan said. "Initially, the board elected to go to the community and get county support to put the project on a special purpose tax measure."

While the public supported the project, McMillan said, it failed to support the funding mechanism in a 2010 vote. The failure of the special purpose tax proposal forced the hospital to launch a new public relations campaign and find another way to pay for the project.

The board of directors permitted the hospital to pursue municipal bonds. The hospital selected an underwriter in 2010 and received its bond rating just last month. The bonds were sold on Wednesday in the amount of $33.3 million.

McMillan said the hospital was in dire need of renovation, as medicine has changed dramatically over the past 40 years. Equipment needed to carry out proper medical care has evolved, as has information technology and HIPPA privacy rules.

"We have an emergency room that was designed years ago when we didn't have the volumes we have right now," McMillan said. "It was designed for volumes of around 3,000 people annually. Our volumes are running at around 7,500 a year."

West Park Hospital is the largest employer in Park County. McMillan said the project could add three to five new full-time positions.

Once finished, the laboratory and imaging departments will be moved, as will admissions. The new wing will allow for the separation of public and patient corridors, icreasing patient privacy.

The new layout will also improve staff efficiency and patient care by eliminating the barriers found in the hospital's current floor plan, McMillan said.

"It's a high-visibility project, and it's going to make a tremendous difference to our campus," McMillan said.

Contact Martin Kidston at 307-527-7250 or mkidston@billingsgazette.com


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