RIVERTON — Riverton is inching closer to having a new nonprofit hospital in town, with a local group of prominent residents hoping to break ground on the facility this fall.
The group — officially dubbed the Riverton Medical District — is preparing to apply for bonds, said Vivian Watkins, who chairs the effort. She said building the hospital and buying the equipment needed to fill it will cost about $35 million. She said she hopes to have the group’s financials — including a line of credit from the federal government — established by the end of August, with a likely groundbreaking ceremony targeted for November.
It’s been a rapid rise for the group, which 12 months ago was publicly criticizing the local hospital system SageWest Health Care. Last summer, the Riverton residents who are now planning on opening a hospital were writing letters and calling for changes from SageWest, a for-profit system owned by LifePoint, which is in turn owned by private equity giant Apollo Global Management.
The group charged SageWest and LifePoint of systematically draining resources from the companies’ Riverton hospital in favor of the Lander location. Both facilities have seen services cut back in recent years, and both have had their trauma-level rating dropped recently. Earlier this year, the Lander hospital announced that it was shuttering its behavioral health unit.
Now the medical district group, which is a registered nonprofit, has 8 acres of land upon which to build, Watkins said. She and other officials are considering hospital management companies to run the day-to-day operations of the soon-to-be facility.
While the bonds will pay for construction and equipment, the new hospital will need to take out a line of credit to finance salary, utilities and other costs. The hospital is expecting to lose about $1 million the first year but is projecting slow and steady growth and profit after that.
Watkins said the Riverton community is “so excited” about the prospect of a hospital. She said that as many as 350 people have showed up to public meetings about the new facility.
She added she’s already had discussions with other health care officials around the state — including Wyoming Medical Center’s Michele Chulick — about possible collaborations. She said it was “a little premature” to say what exactly those partnerships will look like but that the new Riverton hospital is “definitely going to do that.”