Ground broken for new healthcare facility
By Neal A. Shipman
As Watford City was celebrating its 100th anniversary last weekend, another group of visionaries were breaking ground on a new healthcare facility that will serve the needs of Watford City and McKenzie County residents for decades to come.
“When the McKenzie County Hospital was built 60 years ago, it was done by people with a vision,” stated Dan Kelly, CEO of McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, Inc. during ground-breaking ceremonies on Friday, June 27. “Today, we are the pioneers who set the course for the county’s healthcare in the future.”
The new 120,000-square foot medical campus, which is estimated to cost $59 million, will combine the hospital, clinic and long-term care facility in to one central location on land next to the Good Shepherd Home.
“Of all of the ground-breakings that I have been involved with - from the highway bypasses, the Western Area Water Supply to the new developments - this is at the top,” stated Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor.
According to Sanford, the quest for bringing healthcare in Watford City and McKenzie County began in 1935, but the plans for a hospital in the community never were realized due to a lack of funds.
“It took 38 years from when Watford City was formed in 1914 until a hospital was finally built in 1952,” stated Sanford. “The latest effort to build a new facility began in 1998. And today, because of passion and collaboration, we are going to finish that effort.”
While Ron Anderson, chairman of the McKenzie County Board of County Commissioners called Friday’s ground-breaking a great day for the city, he stated that the State of North Dakota should be building the hospital in this oil-impacted community.
“We’re (McKenzie County) providing the state with $2.1 billion in revenue yearly,” stated Anderson. “Bismarck should be building this facility.”
But nonetheless, Anderson praised the Watford City community for having the ability to get things done.
“There are very few communities in North Dakota that can pass a school bond for a new high school, and then turn around and pass a 1.5 percent city sales tax,” stated Anderson. “This community has always gotten things done that needed doing.”
According to Kelly, the healthcare system will be receiving $700,000 per year for 10 years from the Watford City Roughrider Fund to help pay for a portion of the $3 million in annual debt service payments for the new structure.
Additionally, the healthcare system has obtained a $39.2 million loan from the USDA and a $12.5 million loan from the Bank of North Dakota.
“Building out our health care infrastructure in the Bakken has been a top priority to support population growth,” said Jasper Schneider, USDA Rural Development state director. “But this project is more than just a new building; it reflects a regional commitment to support families, workers, and makes it more viable for seniors to stay in the area.”
According to Schneider, the USDA’s loan to the new replacement facility for McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, Inc. is their biggest project in the Bakken.
While Friday’s ground-breaking was indeed a huge step forward for healthcare in Watford City and McKenzie County, Myra Anderson, chairman of the healthcare system’s Benefit Fund, pointed out that the local fundraising efforts for the new facility continue to move forward.
“This new replacement facility will fill a critical need in our community, and we thank the McKenzie County Commission for their $1 million donation to the facility,” stated Anderson.
Anderson also acknowledged the recent donation of $1 million toward the project from ONEOK Partners.
“ONEOK is the first in a series of dominos of the oil companies that will be helping with our local fundraising needs,” stated Anderson. “We have also received significant commitments from BakkenLink Pipeline, Hiland Partners and others.”
McKenzie County is the fastest growing non-metropolitan county in the nation because of energy development. As the area’s population continues to increase, added pressure is being put on local health care facilities which have seen their Emergency Room visits now averaging over 500 per month.