Congratulations to the Community Hospital administration, employees, medical staff, board and Health Foundation and generous donors for reaching another important milestone with the completion of Phase 2, celebrated Sunday with an open house and tours.
Sen. Ben Nelson, one of the speakers Sunday, admitted to being "a little partial to McCook," attending the 2009 groundbreaking for the current project on a hot September afternoon, speaking at the Phase 1 open house on a snowy January day in 2011 and delaying an important trip to make it to Sunday's open house.
Nelson, who has been a champion for rural healthcare over the years, said his colleagues needed to know that "'rural' is not that 30 mile patch between Baltimore and Washington," and promised to "haunt" any successor -- Republican or Democrat -- who forgets it.
Community Hospital's project is an example of a positive result of the stimulus act, although the federal government's participation was in the form of a $17 million Rural Development loan and a $15 million guaranteed loan through a number of Nebraska banks, rather than an outright grant adding to the national deficit.
Touring the new operating suites, it was apparent that this is an important, major investment in Southwest Nebraska's future, most importantly by providing vital services locally and making our community a more vibrant, attractive place to live for people of all ages, but also for creating and retaining local jobs. As Nelson pointed out, healthcare accounts for 10 to 15 percent of jobs in rural communities, or 15 to 20 percent if secondary employment is included.
But it isn't all about the numbers, of course. Those on Sunday's tours also had a chance to stroll through the new Healing Garden, spearheaded by the Community Hospital Health Foundation and resulting from dozens of generous donations and memorials. While Sunday's weather was less than ideal -- the first sub-100-degree day in eight days -- the garden is a calm, relaxing place for patients and families to unwind and reflect during hospital stays.
And, the hospital isn't done. Phase 2B will remodel the former surgery space to help improve services for several other departments.
Dedicated 38 years to the day after Community Hospital first opened, replacing St. Catherine's in northwest McCook, the new facility is evidence of our community's commitment to the future.