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Thursday, April 25, 2024

City council’s hospital hearing draws big crowd

The city of Windom recently held a public hearing and received considerable public input for an upcoming funding decision on a $30 million hospital project.

Over 20 people stood up and gave opinions and viewpoints about the proposed medical office building, and the great majority supported the project and wish it to move forward. There were also some words of caution offered as the hearing included questions about taxpayer responsibility and the possibility of taking on too much debt.

The proposed medical office building contains 57,000 square feet and is four stories high, and seeks to solve space and growth challenges that Windom Area Health is experiencing.
To fund the project, the city has issued a $20 million revenue bond that is currently in the market and accepting bids. According to City Administrator Steve Nasby, the city council will likely vote on what is chosen as the best offer (loan package) from the bids at one of its next two city council meetings. Nasby said it is also possible a special council meeting could be called.

Citizen pros and cons

The public hearing lasted over an hour and had a three-minute speaking limit. Most of the more than 20 contributors were employees of the hospital and emphasized how tight the hospital is on space, which is inhibiting growth, and how important the hospital is to the well-being and economy of the area. There were also many expressions of faith in the hospital governing board and the hospital’s administration in leading WAH to a sound medical and financial future.

Travis Eichstadt is the IT manager at WAH but came to the podium with an eight-year-old boy and gave a testimony that focused on the need for medical care locally, and not at distance.

“This is my son, Ethan,” said Eichstadt, “and unfortunately he has had three surgeries to correct his hearing in eight years, with the most recent surgery last Thursday.”

The father explained that these surgeries were performed in Sioux Falls, a long drive especially in winter, and expressed his wishes with others that Windom Area Health had space for more specialties, such as an ENT, which the facility currently lacks space to provide.
Eichstadt said the stress of these long trips for care is far from ideal, with 4 a.m. wakeups or hotel stays, and long drives home with his young son in pain.

“Ethan in his wise eight years had a simple solution,” Eichstadt said. “Why not just make the hospital bigger? The common sense of a child is so clear.”

Gary Olson of Great Bend Township also spoke and noted himself as the first non-hospital employee to speak at the hearing. He said he has received great care at WAH and wants the hospital to succeed. He voiced concerns over the debt load in funding the hospital, and the stiff competition from other nearby providers.

Olson noted facilities in Fairmont, Mankato and Worthington, and said, “So it seems you are kind of boxed in here, and I hope you are thinking about where this growth is going to come from. . .I just hope that you don’t weigh the city down with so much debt that if something goes wrong, you can’t get out of it.”

For more details on this story please see the Sept. 13 edition of the Citizen.

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