It's crunch time for the fundraising team at the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center as it struggles to reach its goal of $2 million by the end of the year.
Hanging in the balance is a decision on whether the hospital's expansion project can be fully built as planned.
"Our goal has been $2 million from day one. As time has gone on, it has become more and more critical that we are successful," said Brad Strader, director of the BVRMC Foundation.
The building plans, which include a new much anticipated Women's Health Center and physical rehabilitation unit as well as improved emergency room, lab, business offices, cardio services area and a physical connecting structure between the medical center and adjacent clinic, were originally pegged at under $4 million.
During 18 months of delays, reassessment and adjustments, costs have risen to an estimated $5.8 million, well over the amount BVRMC officials had hoped for.
Still, with the reserve funds already on hand, the project can be built in full if the fund drive is successful, Strader said. An ending date of December 31 has been set for the drive. It has so far compiled $1.3 million in donations and pledges, with $700,000 left to raise in 12 weeks.
The project is expected to go out for bids in December, with the contractor to be chosen in January, and construction to begin next spring. "We are anticipating that contractors may be out looking for work at this time of year and in the current economy, so we are hopeful that our estimates are on the high side, and that the project can be brought in around $5.2 million," Strader said.
An auditorium - a large meeting facility that could be divided off for smaller education events and classes - will be bid separately in case it needs to be eliminated in the event that funding does not meet total cost.
"It would be a wonderful thing for the community to have, because it could attract growth and bring many things to the community such as meetings of different types of doctors, nurses or students, but it is the one thing in the project that is least directly related to patient services, so it might be considered the most expendable in that regard," Strader said.
A basement records storage area below the current lab could also be cut.
"We will still do our darndest to raise the needed amount in our fundraising campaign. I think we did the right thing to go to the community first, and now turn to corporate and foundation sources. They always ask if their money is the first dollar or the last - they want to see the people of the community showing an involvement before they decide it is worth their donation."
The BVRMC trustees have been very frugal in holding down costs of the project wherever possible. The realities of hospital revenue and expense caused the board to approve a 5 percent increase in rates recently, Strader noted. About $3.2 million has been set aside in reserves for the expansion project, which would not spend the facility's resources down to zero - some funds must be retained for emergencies of unforeseen costs in other areas.
The fund drive lost its momentum with the terrorist strike tragedies elsewhere in the country, Strader admits. BVRMC had planned to run a series of advertisements urging people to donate their $600 tax refund checks to the facility's project, but with the news of the tragedy, decided to pull the ads, so that people would not feel torn between giving needed funds to the Red Cross and supporting the local health care project.
Without wanting to capitalize on the emotions of the national emergencies, Strader said it is also important to invest in local medical facilities and staff in the event a large emergency should strike the Storm Lake area.
"While we do not have the kind of concerns a New York does, it is nice to know that we have the facilities and people ready to handle a crisis such as a tornado or a major fire if we should ever have to," Strader said.
As the end of their campaign nears, the members of the fundraising team are still conducting one-on-one meetings with potential donors, and anyone who is interested in more information is urged to contact Strader at the hospital.
"We have to give our campaign people a lot of credit. They were originally supposed to be done with their work by July, and we anticipated we would be building by now. They have not given up on this."
As the campaign concludes, they hope to emphasize the economic impact of the medical center on its community, and the potential health care represents to grow jobs and development for the Storm Lake area. A model and exterior artist's concept of the expanded facility are being completed.
Program development is largely completed. For example, Women's Center leader Kim Weiland has developed in-depth plans on the services and make-up of the Women's Center, but there is little more that can be done to initiate those developments until she has a physical structure to house them, Strader said.
Donations for the fund drive are still coming in. Cargill-Ag Partners offered $10,000 Tuesday, Stille, Pierce and Pertzborn and Gary Lalone of Storm Lake have made substantial donations recently.
"People do see health care as a priority here, we find that with every contact we have made," Strader added. "We hope now that as the end of the campaign gets near, people will support these goals and help put the project over the top."