Blackwell Regional Hospital (BRH) was originally built in 1954, and by the 2010s, it had become operationally inefficient. Surgeries could no longer be performed due to federal code requirements, and deferred maintenance was cost prohibitive and included replacing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, ADA improvements, windows, roof, and elevator. The substandard equipment and building – along with the reduced usage of acute inpatient services – put the long-term financial viability of the hospital in doubt.
In June 2016, the Blackwell Regional Hospital operator gave a 90-day notice of intent to close the hospital. In response to this, the citizens of Blackwell overwhelmingly passed a 1 percent sales tax dedicated to the hospital for 25 years. The closure would have resulted in not only immediate serious health risks to the citizens but also the loss of 100 direct jobs.
While support from the sales tax increase provided long-term financial security, the hospital still needed financing for the construction of a replacement building. To support the project, REI Development Corp. provided $25 million in NMTC financing with an equity investment from BancFirst.
Now, instead of closing, the Blackwell Hospital Trust Authority (owner) and its operator (Stillwater Medical Center) are building a new hospital that includes an emergency room, inpatient and outpatient services, and an on-site clinic that will produce operational efficiency and best serve the community’s future healthcare needs.
The new facility is licensed for 10 beds and will provide other services currently offered while doing so in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. The facility allows for shared staffing and providers between the hospital and clinic, limiting the duplication of staffing. The new physician clinic space was designated as a rural health clinic. Construction created 50 full-time equivalent construction jobs, and the project preserved 150 permanent jobs.