New hospital designs aired

By Sarah Elmquist Squires

Managing Editor

Riverton Medical District Board member Cindy McDonald showed the engineering designs for the new hospital to community members during an open house last week. (p/c Sarah Elmquist Squires)

“This is where the babies will be born,” said Riverton Medical District Board member Cindy McDonald during the public unveiling of design plans for the new $54-million hospital. “It’s my favorite part, because we’ll have that again.” 

Board members were showing off interior designs of the new building, which will include services ranging from surgery, ICU, gastroenterology and, of course, OB/GYN care that will allow women to again deliver their babies in Riverton. 

The path to the new suite of services has been a long one, and began with a committed group of residents who wanted to reinvigorate health care in Riverton. Those years of work have cumulated in the designs for the 60,000-70,000 square-foot facility, with a groundbreaking ceremony expected this spring. 

“We’ll break ground when we can see the ground,” board member Vivian Watkins shared. “We’re hoping for June … as soon as we’re able. And then, 16-18 months, and you will be cutting the ribbon on that baby and you will have excellent access to care again,” she told the crowd of more than 30 people gathered last week during an open house. 

Riverton Medical District Board member Vivian Watkins spoke to a few dozen community members on Wednesday, when initial design plans for the new hospital were unveiled. The hope is to break ground in June. “And then, 16-18 months, and you will be cutting the ribbon on that baby and you will have excellent access to care again,” she shared. (p/c Sarah Elmquist Squires)

The first floor of the new hospital will boast a clinic and emergency department – when the facility opens its doors, the emergency unit will allow for ambulances to pull right into the building and have patients delivered right to the care center without having to be hauled in from the cold. The second floor will include the medical/surgical rooms – 12 regular rooms, with two ICU rooms that can be converted to medical/surgical rooms, and two medical surgical rooms that can be converted to ICU rooms, as well. That will mean the sicker patients who are hospitalized will be contained on the second floor, removed from the clinic and other areas on the first. 

The facility will offer X-rays, labs – “whatever you need for your diagnosis,” Watkins explained. All doctors and medical staff will have their own offices ready for them from day one. 

“It’s a beautiful building,” commented former Riverton mayor Ron Warpness. 

(submitted image from Erdman)

Watkins asked the crowd gathered how many had attended the first community meeting four years ago, when the idea of a new hospital was something of a dream. A dozen or so hands shot up. She joked that every time she would run into people, she’d hit them up for donations. “In four years, we have our $54 million,” Watkins shared to a round of applause. “That applause is for you … This is not your board’s hospital. This is your hospital,” she said. We have an amazing board, “but you are the ones that stand behind us and write those checks and give us your support.” When we got discouraged, someone would always say, “Don’t you give up.”

The designs, district board members noted, are not yet final, and their engineers at Erdman have advised them that they can tweak the plans going forward to construction. “But we’re getting pretty darn close,” Watkins added.

This project is the result of myriad meetings, and once the millions in funding were secured, the board has been pushing through mountains of paperwork. Watkins said they’ve been incredibly careful to use the funds wisely. “Our board – your board – is making sure every penny is spent the best way that we can possibly spend it,” she explained.

The new hospital will be constructed at the Eastern Shoshone Business Park in Riverton, with a 12-acre plot that will provide for future growth as well. Now that designs are complete, construction subcontracting bids are expected to be let. Sampson Construction of Cheyenne will handle construction using a “construction management at-risk” process, with local subcontractors for all but the most technical aspects expected to be used. 

Late last year, the district announced it had secured the needed $54 million for the new hospital, including a Wyoming Loan and Investment Board $10 million grant, as well as a $37 million low-interest USDA Rural Development Community Facility loan – the largest such award in the state’s history.