EMHS breaks ground

Endless Mountains Health Systems board members, administration, doctors and local officials held a groundbreaking ceremony as construction is about to begin on the new 25-bed hospital facility. From left: EMHS Board member Chris Caterson, Dr. Joseph Speicher, EMHS CEO Rex Catlin, Rep. Sandra Major, EMHS Board Chair Ray Wilmarth, Sen. Lisa Baker, Rep. Tina Pickett, USDA Rural Development loan specialist Michael Angerson, Cabot Oil & Gas spokesman George Stark and EMHS CFO Loren Stone. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

BY STACI WILSON

The culmination of years of combined resolve and persistent efforts brought forth the start of a new beginning Friday afternoon inSusquehannaCounty.

EndlessMountainsHealth Systems, a critical access hospital, held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of its new facility on Rt. 706, just west of Montrose.

EMHS Chief Executive Officer Rex Catlin said, “Now our medical staff and employees will be in a facility that mirrors their high quality.

Efforts to build a new facility began about 15 years ago when EMHS, a not-for-profit-corporation, took over the failingMontroseGeneralHospital.

Catlin spoke of the persistence required to get the project to the site work and building stage.

The ceremony was attended by many federal, state, local officials, community members and EMHS doctors and employees who through the years had a hand in the project.

Ray Wilmarth, Chairman of EMHS Board of Directors, said, “This is a team effort – something everybody recognizes as what the community needs.”

He thanked past County Commissioners John Blachek, Cal Dean and Jeff Loomis who supported EMHS in its beginning and served on the hospital’s board while in office. “They weren’t just names there, they came and participated and put their shoulders to the wheel to get things done,” Wilmarth said.

Wilmarth said, “This has been a long time coming. We’re not fully there yet but we will keep plugging.”

Funding has been secured for Phase I of the three-part facility build plan. Wilmarth said Phase I represents about 70 percent, or about $33 million, of the $45 million total project cost.

Following site work, Phase I of the project will be the construction of the main health care facility.

The emergency room, operating rooms and the hospital laboratory will be housed on the main floor with 25-bed hospital unit on the upper floor.

Phase II of the project will bring the clinic to the facility; and PhaseIIIincludes space for the outpatient physical therapy department as well as room for the hospital’s administrative offices.

About $25 million of the Phase I funding was secured through a 40-year loan from USDA Rural Development.

Michael Angerson, a loan specialist in the USDA Rural Development office in Tunkhannock explained that there are several loan and grant programs with funds available offered by the USDA that are designed to help keep rural communities thriving with economic development for both not-for profit and private business interests.

He said EMHS has already held its loan closing, and whenever the contractor was ready to start, work on the hospital project could begin.

George Stark, Director of External Affairs for Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., said the natural gas company recognized the historic significance of the groundbreaking.

“Similar to jobs and education, available health care helps define a community,” Stark said. “We want to make sure we are investing in all three.”

Stark said that Cabot want to ensure that private money is also brought to EMHS, through foundations and business and issued a challenge he said the company would be rolling out in the near future.

“Our goal is to push the project through to fruition,” Stark said.

Although the ceremony was spent looking forward to a modern, updated facility, Dr. Joseph Speicher, an EMHS physician, took time to look back.

He recognized the efforts put forth over 60 years ago by Dr. Raymond Bennett, Eudora Bennett, Dr. Paul Kerr and Donna Kerr who worked to buildMontroseGeneralHospital– the facility now known as EMHS.

“As modern medicine brought its demands, (the facility) has acquitted itself well,” Dr. Speicher said.

He said the current facility has had lived it life and given its all.