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A Booster Shot for Critical Care
in Rural Colorado

In 1907 the Sisters of St. Joseph from Wichita, Kansas opened the first hospital in the San Luis Valley at Del Norte, a rural town of 1,709 (presently), in south Central Colorado. Over the years many excellent physicians worked in the facility, but the Sisters of St. Joseph closed the hospital in 1993 as part of the restructuring of their hospital system.

A group of local residents recognized the need for continuing hospital care and formed the Valley Citizens Foundation for Health Care and worked diligently to reopen the hospital. In January 1996, the Rio Grande Hospital was reopened in the old St. Joseph Hospital facility. The service area for the hospital included Rio Grande County, Mineral County and Saguache County, over 4,900 square miles. The communities served include Del Norte, Monte Vista, Center, Saguache, South Fork, Creede and the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

Over the years, the Rio Grande Hospital showed consistent growth and improvement of services. However, the leased building was plagued with outdated mechanical systems, asbestos and structural problems. The cost to purchase and rehabilitate the building would have been prohibitive; more space was needed and anticipated growth in the area pointed to the need for a new facility.

The community got behind the effort; they needed to raise $1.5 million, and they did! A local rancher donated 10 acres of land for the hospital, another rancher sold 22 acres of prime Rio Grande riverfront property and donated the proceeds from the sale, a 1960 Lincoln Continental was raffled raising $25,000, and numerous other fund-raising efforts helped to raise the money needed.

On July 22, the Denver Multifamily Hub closed a $10,000,000 Section 242 insured loan for the new Rio Grande Hospital. This is the first Critical Access Hospital to be insured under a cooperative effort between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Unlike most non-profit hospitals that are financed through the issuance of tax-exempt bonds, Rio Grande was financed through the issuance of Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA) mortgage-backed securities. The insurance on the Rio Grande Medical Center will allow the hospital to build a much-needed replacement facility of 35,000 square feet on the donated parcel of land. The new facility will include 14 private patient rooms, an expanded emergency room facility and additional space for laboratory, physical therapy, pharmacy and administrative functions. FHA insured $10 million and the communities raised $1.5 million for the $11.5 million project. Groundbreaking was on July 29, 2003, with construction completion expected in August of 2004.

The Critical Access Hospital (CAH) Program is operated by the Department of Health and Human Services and was authorized by the Congress as an amendment to the Social Security Act in 1997. CAH certification grants advantages to hospitals with 25 or fewer beds and located 35 miles from any other hospital (15 miles in mountainous terrain). These advantages include Medicare reimbursements and cost-based payments. FHA helps hospitals get capital financing.

Press release

[Photo of groundbreaking for Rio Grande Hospital]
Groundbreaking for Rio Grande Hospital

[Image: A sketch of new Rio Grande Critical Care facility]
New Rio Grande Critical Care facility

Content Archived: April 9, 2010

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