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Cash-strapped Nebraska hospital seeks bond to stay afloat

April 6, 2018

Physical Therapist Jeremy Svoboda works with Betty Torson at the Friend hospital on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Friend, Neb. (Eric Gregory /Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

FRIEND, Neb. (AP) — A cash-strapped hospital in southeast Nebraska is seeking $800,000 to keep its Medicare funding and continue serving the area after nearly 90 years.

The Friend Community Healthcare System’s hospital will close if it doesn’t update its electrical system by the end of this year, the Lincoln Journal Star reported .

The hospital’s generator is outdated and much of its electrical wiring is out of compliance, according to a 2016 inspection. The state Fire Marshal’s Office ordered the hospital to make repairs by January 2019 or it will lose Medicare funding, which the heath care facility can’t operate without.

The potential closure could result in Friend residents traveling 30 minutes away for emergency care.

A bond issue on the May 15 ballot will seek to raise money to update the wiring and prolong the struggling hospital’s life.

The hospital district raised its levy last year to anticipate repair costs. But the district needs the money faster than it can collect, so the bond issue would serve as a loan. Bond payments would be paid off with taxes the district already receives, said Nick Svehla, a hospital board member.

“Everyone hears bond and they’re worried about their taxes going up,” said board member Jim Vossler. “But they shouldn’t.”

Approving the bond doesn’t guarantee longevity for the hospital, which recently operated at a deficit. The hospital generated $4.8 million in revenue last year, but spent $5 million.

The hospital saw slight improvements in the number of patients visiting its clinic daily, but these numbers need to continue growing for the hospital to survive, Svehla said.

“We’re one of the largest employers in a town this size, and knowing there’s viable health care close to home is extremely important,” Svehla said. “Keeping something like this viable is greatly beneficial.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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