Design sketch of the expanded ER department, including a heliport on top.
Libby Lashley of the Great Plains Health Care Foundation enthusiastically made it official Friday – more than $3.6 million has been raised locally to renovate the hospital’s emergency department.The renovation and expansion of the ER at the North Platte medical center will cost around $8.5 million. Most of that amount – $5 million -- is from a grateful patient who set one condition on the gift -- that local contributions match it in part.
The foundation was challenged to raise the $3.5 million by the end of 2016. When that effort fell short, the deadline was extended until the end of the first quarter in 2017, and in the end, the total was surpassed, Lashley said.
Bill and Ruth Scott of Omaha were visiting the Sandhills in 2005 when Bill suffered a serious accident. He was taken to the Great Plains emergency room, where the assessment and diagnosis led to immediate, appropriate treatment.
Out of gratitude for the care Scott received under the supervision of ER Physician Dr. Jim Smith, he offered a $5 million gift with the caveat that the medical center must raise the rest of the money from the community. Lashley, the Foundation’s executive director, undertook the project.
A “Minutes Matter” campaign began in 2016 to raise $3.5 million. By August, the foundation had quietly raised $2.28 million. Then they held a press conference to announce the final stage of the campaign.
Lashley said then that visits to the emergency room had grown about 4% each year in the last 10 years. In 2015, the Great Plains ER saw more than 19,000 patients.
Smith said the need for emergency services is dramatically increasing.
“Unfortunately, throughout the whole country, due to economic pressure, patients are either not insured or under-insured and that leads to access to healthcare problems,” Smith said. “Consequently, some people have to rely upon emergency services for their care.”
Lashley said the fundraising project was one of the largest the Great Plains Health Foundation has ever undertaken.
Under the expansion, private exam rooms will be increased from 12 to 29, improving the flow, reducing registration and wait times, as well as expediting delivery of care.
The project continues the large-scale overhaul of the Great Plains Health center.
A new five-story main building – one of the town’s tallest structures -- opened in August 2015 at the end of a 2.5 year, $100 million construction project.
Not long after, a new $14.5 million Great Plains physician’s pavilion -- triple the size of the old building -- opened in October 2015 just north of the hospital across Francis St.
On Friday, after Lashley and foundation board chairman Leland Poppe announced the total, a celebration luncheon was held for the foundation board, committee members and hospital leadership team.
Hospital spokeswoman Fiona Libsack said the generous involvement and partnership with the Scotts was highly encouraging to the campaign, and so was the potential use of the emergency services by people across west central Nebraska.
“During our initial meeting with the Scotts, it was understood that this was a very unique, one-time gift to our organization,” Lashley said. “Philanthropy is certainly a learned behavior and I believe the Scotts’ generosity sparked a lot of interest locally for this project.”
The final amount of gifts and pledges is $3,644,364.33, Lashley said.
Construction on the emergency department is slated to begin in late fall and is estimated to take 18–24 months. The board must finalize construction plans, open the bidding process and issue construction contracts.
“Reaching our goal is a cause for celebration,” Lashley said. “I can truly say that every dollar we received for this project made a difference.”
“My main message has been that we are fortunate to be a non-profit hospital, where decisions are made locally," she said. "GP Health is a non-profit hospital. Because of this, all patient revenue is reinvested back into the organization. We have continuous needs and the foundation can help in funding some of these important projects.”
The most rewarding part of the fund drive for Lashley was hearing stories and sharing tears with people who had life-changing experiences in the emergency room, or the hospital. Those experiences kept her motivated throughout the year, Libsack said.
For more about current foundation projects and giving opportunities, contact Lashley at 308.568.7411 or log on to gphealth.org/foundation.