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Armstrong County OKs hospital borrowing

| Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
A group of nurses look on as ACMH Hospital CEO and President John Lewis goes over plans to improve the emergency room department and build an adult care facility after a public hearing on the project, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.

Two projects totaling $8 million on the ACMH Hospital campus in East Franklin — renovations to the emergency room department and the construction of an adult day care facility — are poised to begin within the year now that Armstrong County Commissioners have voted 3-0 to approve borrowing $5 million to help fund the project.

The Armstrong County Hospital Authority – which was created by the county to help the hospital get loans at a cheaper rate – will get the loan from Farmers & Merchants Bank of Western Pennsylvania. ACMH Hospital will be responsible for repaying the loan.

ACMH President and CEO John Lewis, when outlining project plans during a public hearing this week, said the ER space is “woefully inadequate” and would be expanded by 8,900 square feet.

“It's about managing the 26,000-plus patients coming through the door and how they are treated,” Lewis said.

Improvements include adding eight exam rooms for a total of 14, a second triage area, an area to treat severe injuries, a centralized nursing station and a place for ambulance personnel to decontaminate equipment.

The proposed adult day care facility — which will accommodate 120 nonresidential clients and employ about 50 people — will be a joint venture between the hospital and Lutheran Affiliated Services of Butler County.

The facility will provide services for low-income, at-risk seniors who are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid and will include recreational and activity areas as well as exam space.

“The goal is to take care of clients so they don't end up in a hospital and to keep them healthy and at home,” Lewis said. “We will be responsible for their total care. It's a prevention mindset.”

The venture will provide county-wide transportation to clients needing rides to medical facilities. While attending day care at the facility, clients will be provided with at least one meal prepared at the hospital.

Pat Burns, vice president and chief financial officer of ACMH, said construction costs for the ER will be about $5 million with an additional $1 million for equipment. The joint venture will cost $2 million.

From the $5 million loan, $3 million is allocated for the ER renovations and $2 million for constructing the day care facility, Burns said.

Further funding for the emergency room improvements will come from a $1.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant awarded in July by the state. Under the terms of the grant, the hospital will use its own money during construction and be reimbursed by the state when the project is completed.

The hospital will cover costs beyond the $6.5 million from the grant and borrowed money, Burns said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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