Hospital seeks support for new wing


An artist’s rendition of the proposed improvements to Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez.

Montezuma County has had a hospital serving its residents for the past century.

And this would be a great time to begin a new era of more efficient, hightech patient care, said July Schuenemeyer, president of the Montezuma County Hospital District, at a recent press conference.

Should the multi-pronged effort to fund a $14.2 million expansion be successful, she noted, its opening would roughly coincide with that milestone.

Mostly built in the 1970s with some additions and improvements along the way, the present building “is out of date, not as efficient as we could make it,” Shuenemeyer said. “We would rather – and we think the community would rather – spend the money on something state-of-the-art that provides 21st-century care and is a better place for people to work.”


Montezuma Cortez Hospital District board members Judy Schuenemeyer and Brad Wayt present plans for a hospital expansion. Photo by David Long.

MCHD is asking county voters to approve a limited sales and use tax – what amounts to four cents on a $10 transaction – in November to partially finance an addition that would house new patient rooms with more modern amenities. This would in turn create space at the hospital to consolidate several clinics now scattered around Cortez, and to improve its emergency-response team accommodations.

The tax would exclude most grocery items, as well as prescriptions, residential utilities and unlicensed farm equipment.

One advantage of the sales/use tax is that it would be paid not just by residents of the district, but by everyone who buys goods and services in the county, including tourists and residents of the greater area, who also regularly use the hospital’s services. (Whereas a mill-levy increase would be borne by district property owners alone.)

Other funding sources would include a USDA loan of $6.6 million, $1.5 million from MCHD current reserves, private donations – $331,00 to this point – and about $200,000 in annual savings from discontinued leases at the current locations of the outpatient clinics, which would come from Southwest Health System, the nonprofit entity created by MCHD to operates the hospital.

The modest tax would end in 15 years or sooner once the debt is repaid.

From humble beginnings in what is now an office building, Southwest Memorial Hospital has, over that time, gradually expanded its reach as well as breadth of care, with well over 200,000 outpatient and inpatient services provided to area residents and visitors last year.

“The sales-tax financing is key to making this project work,” added Kent Rogers, SHS CEO, who took over the reins in March. He urged people to promote the benefits of the project to their friend and neighbors.

“It’s important [for the hospital] to remain relevant in serving the community,” Rogers said. “We’re always looking at how we can do that with procedures and technologies. But facilities are also a big part of remaining modern.”

Currently the hospital employs about 400 people, who provided more than 214,000 services to patients last year. “It’s important [for patients] not to have to drive elsewhere for services,” added Schuenemeyer.

“We listened to the community and I hope now the community will listen to us.”

From August 2015.