$35 million loan boosts new hospital

Corry Memorial Hospital was presented a check for almost $35 million this morning from U.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-3rd), second from left, and Tom Williams, right, rural development state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funding will be used for construction of a new Corry Memorial Hospital. Accepting the check during a press conference are Paul C. “Hoop” Roche, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, left, and Barb Nichols, president and CEO of Corry Memorial Hospital, second from right. Journal photo by Maryann Mook

Corry Memorial Hospital officials got a shot in the arm this morning in the form of funding for a new facility.

U.S. Rep. Dahlkemper (D-3rd) and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams announced that the USDA has selected Corry Memorial Hospital Association to receive a $22,603,000 Community Facilities Direct Loan and a $12,170,000 Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan through Northwest Savings Bank for a new, critical-access hospital.

The funding will be used to construct a 20-bed, 73,323-square-foot, critical access hospital to replace the existing 59-year-old hospital.

“This is wonderful news for Corry residents,” said Dahlkemper, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture. “Our rural communities should have all the resources available in the cities, especially when it comes to essential needs like medical care.

“Thanks to nearly $35 million in loans secured through USDA, everyone in Corry will have access to a top-of-the-line hospital that can meet the changing needs of patients and the health-care industry,” Dahlkemper added. “I am pleased to share this exciting news with everyone in Corry, especially the dedicated health-care providers and staff of Corry Memorial Hospital.”

Barb Nichols, R.N., president and CEO of Corry Memorial Hospital, welcomed guests at a press conference this morning in the hospital’s board room, where Dahlkemper and Williams made a check presentation.

Nichols said plans for a new hospital have been ongoing for several years. She reiterated the planning and financing processes:

“In March 2005, we became a certified critical-access hospital in an effort to stabilize our finances, realign our services, and enable us to have access for additional financing opportunities in the future,” Nichols said.

In December 2007, the board of directors acknowledged the hospital needed to move forward in pursuing a replacement facility in order to maintain a hospital in Corry, Nichols said.

In early 2008, the board chose a construction manager, architect and financial underwriter.

In early 2009, the hospital submitted a USDA application for funding.

In April 2009, hospital officials received a $1.5 million commitment each from state Rep. Curt Sonney (R-4th) and state Sen. Mary Jo White (R-21st) for construction.

“We are here this morning to announce that the final piece of financing — and notably the most important — has been accomplished so that we can build a new Corry Memorial Hospital,” Nichols said. “I am pleased to inform you that the USDA has selected Corry Memorial Hospital Association to receive (the funding) to construct the new state-of-the-art building with state-of-the-art technologies with all acute-care services except maternity centered around 20 inpatient Wellness Environment rooms.”

Nichols said that Corry Memorial Hospital has been a major employer in the area, with more than 350 families depending on Corry Memorial Hospital.

Williams said he sees “rural health care as critical to a community.”

He said the loan money is not money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus funds.

“The money this is coming from is not stimulus money, but without stimulus money, this project would not be funded because the stimulus money has freed up money from other projects, so funding is available for Corry Memorial Hospital,” Williams said.

Dahlkemper, along with Sen. Bob Casey and former Sen. Arlen Spector, committed $100,000 worth of funding from the direct loan from the USDA and the guaranteed loan from the USDA.

Hospital officials and the hospital’s board of directors announced in December they were ready to move forward with the construction of its new facility when Northwest Savings Bank was named the lender of record in December 2009.

Paul C. Roche, who has been a hospital board member for 14 years, said a new hospital has been part of the board’s strategic plan for about 10 years.

“The board has been very supportive and has never faltered at all in that support,” Roche said.

The new CMH

Plans for the new Corry Memorial Hospital include a 73,323-square-foot facility that will replace the current hospital at 612 W. Smith St., which was dedicated in 1951.

The single-story hospital will be constructed on about 25 acres of land at 965 Shamrock Lane, off of South Shady Avenue Extension. Roche Shamrock LLP has donated the land for the site of the hospital.

Roche Shamrock LLP is owned by Marne Roche and her five children. Roche’s husband, Paul C “Hoop” Roche, is chairman of Corry Memorial Hospital’s board of directors.

The hospital will have 20 family-friendly patient rooms with pull-out beds and large doorways for wheelchair accessibility. Each room will have about 320 square feet of space.

Construction of the main building will be followed by parking areas and an ambulance drop-off point under a canopy. The site will include a helipad near the emergency-room entrance for medical helicopters to land and take off.

There will also be many out-patient services and areas for mobile services.

Unlike the current hospital, the new facility design includes a building where patients can be transported to different departments without being exposed to the general public.

Future development could include a medical arts building, but that is yet to be determined.

During a press conference this morning, Paul C. Roche said groundbreaking should take place in about six weeks, and construction should be completed in about two years.

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