JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In their first meeting since September, the Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee (MHRFC) approved funding for over $40 million in new applications to construct or improve health facilities. The committee also issued extensions for health facilities projects worth over $143 million.
Of the applications that were accepted, most of them were unanimously accepted. The MHRFC approved Mercy Hospital in Springfield to acquire an additional $2.3 million robotic surgery system to better facilitate invasive obstetrician-gynecological procedures. The committee voted unanimously to approve the construction of a $781,000 50 bed residential care facility in Essex. An application to create a mental health facility in Farmington that cost nearly $756,000 came under special scrutiny.
Representatives for the clinic bought an abandoned hospital that appeared to some to have a stable foundation. They alleged that they could repair the hospital for $756,005, less than the threshold of $1 million that would require them to get an application for a Certificate of Need (CON). They also alleged that they would be able to cut costs by only renovating a section of the hospital and not all of it.
Opponents of the project believed that their inspection of the building could not be trusted because they did not inspect the plumbing or kitchen sanitation efficiently enough. They argued that they lied on their financial inspection of the facility so that they could build the facility for cheaper than the threshold and avoid a CON application. They believed that it could cost upwards of $1.5 million to build the facility they wanted.
In the hearing, the proponents of the facility said that the community needs better mental health care. Community leaders, including the town’s sheriff, wrote letters to the MHFRC advocating for its construction.
The board eventually voted to approve the project, but committee member Sen. Mike Cunningham would not accept being deceived.
“I want you to fully understand that, based on the information given, and the lack of certified information against it. If I find that you deceived this committee in any way, if you come back to CON, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that you do not get it,” Cunningham warned. “I want you to fully understand that, right now. I will work my butt off to make sure you do not get it approved.”
The MHFRC also heard 12 appeals for extensions on projects worth over $143 million. While every case was granted some kind of extension, the board felt that some projects needed help more than others.
Specifically, a continuing care $18.9 million retirement community in St. Charles county faced significant scrutiny from the board. Efforts to build create this community started in 2013 and had been asking for extensions ever since. The proposal was nearing the end of its seventh and was asking for four additional extensions. The project had already spent over $1 million dollars and had not yet started construction.
“I realize you are way down the road on this,” Bondon said. “Do you have some gauge on [a timeline?]”
“Our current timeline within what we just did, is still very aggressive where we hope to get financing by the winter of 2018 is still our target,” a representative for the project said. “We’re going to have to work hard, very much this year, to meet that. Will we have additional extensions? Yes.”
The board voted to grant the community only two of its requested four extensions. If construction has not started by that time, it would not be approved to be built.
The full agenda can be seen here.
Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer