A long discussed overhaul of the patient-care wing at Southport’s Dosher Memorial Hospital now has $8.5 million in federal funds to work with per a low-interest loan ceremoniously delivered Monday.
Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-7) paid the hospital a visit that afternoon to mark the loan’s award, through a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program that lends toward quality of life improvements in rural America.
The money will aid the estimated $11.2 million conversion of 25 acute-care beds into private rooms with accessible bathrooms and other updates that hospital officials say will make the patient housing at Dosher modern and fully compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
The wing was built in 1978.
“It has not had a major renovation since then, other than paint and wallpaper,” said Dosher spokesman Kirk Singer, adding the construction is set for this fall, likely by November.
Dosher, at 924 N. Howe St. in Southport, expects a 13-16 month project done in phases to minimize any impacts to patients and guests. For most of the project’s duration, the hospital plans to have at least 20 beds available, at all times, planning well ahead of its currently daily average of 12 patients.
“Under normal circumstances, we don’t anticipate that [the construction] is going to create an issue,” Singer said. “Of course the area of construction will be sealed off so that we’ll minimize any dust and noise.”
Cash reserves are programmed to to cover the balance of the project’s cost, after the $8.5 million USDA loan, which is to be repaid over a 40-year period.
A portion of the cash reserves is from property tax revenue special to the hospital for its capital quality needs. It’s levied over the Smithville Township, inclusive of Southport, Oak Island, Bald Head Island, Caswell Beach, a portion of St. James and some unincorporated areas.
Currently set at 4 cents per $100 of property value–the maximum allowed for the special levy–voters had authorized the tax in referenda dating back to the 1970s; the most recent tax authority won approval in 2000 with a 30-year life.
For the current fiscal year, it’s expected to generate $2.6 million from the township, according to Brunswick County. The hospital can only put the money into capital expenses, like the patient-care wing improvement. It doesn’t pay for operations.
Dosher, 83 years old this year, is one of the county’s top 10 employers with more than 360 on staff, according to the N.C. Employment Security Commission.