USDA State Director of Rural Development Theresa Greenfield visited Waverly Health Center on Wednesday to celebrate a $27 million loan from her agency’s Community Facilities Program on which the hospital is set to close end of September, with what is hoped to be a low interest rate.
“I love spending time in the field visiting these projects,” Greenfield said. “What I call celebrating successes. It’s a very unique situation where it’s a city, a community hospital. It’s quite rare. They worked hard on a plan for growing the facilities, what their needs might be. And how to maintain their sustainable business model, Greenfield added.
The 30,000 square foot expansion of Waverly Health Center includes a new emergency department, larger space for the Christophel Clinic and new space for outpatient and pain management services.
“That’s the bulk of the 30,000 square foot expansion (which) is open and serving patients,” WHC Foundation Director Emily Frederick told Waverly Newspapers.
“The other part of the renovation is on the existing 40,000 square foot space, which is continuing through the fall,” Frederick said.
“They’re almost ready for near completion,” Greenfield said, referring to the fall completion. “Which is quite exciting.”
Greenfield learned that the hospital had built a cardboard replica of its plans and gathered feedback from stakeholders such as patients and staff.
WHC is a financially independent municipal hospital, which means the community elects a board of directors to guide the hospital, enabling local decision-making.
“We don’t get taxpayer money to operate,” said Frederick, director of the WHC Foundation. “The hospital itself oversees all finances.”
“The beauty of being city-owned is that we can make decisions right here at Waverly based on the needs of our patients,” Frederick said. She pitted this against network hospitals who, in general, should make decisions on the company’s flagpole before taking action.
The WHC loan Greenfield is referring to is through the USDA’s Rural Development Community Facilities Program, Frederick said.
Greenfield Public Information and Rural Development Manager Cecilia Lynch planned to visit a few other projects on Wednesday before returning to Des Moines, including a nearby project that Greenfield says “has yet to be announced. “.
As a Biden administration employee, Greenfield said the administration’s top investment priorities include COVID recovery and accompanying health issues, climate action and equity.
“For rural states like Iowa, that means we’re working hard to get resources to some of our underserved communities,” she said. “We just completed an equity pilot with 10 communities across the state. Little Aurora is just down the street.
“We try to meet communities where they are and support their priorities,” Greenfield said.
Rural development, she said, focuses only on investing in small communities, ranging in size from 25,000 to 10,000 and under. Investment areas can range from businesses to housing to community facilities.
Greenfield touted, for example, “the 504 housing program” which she says allows low-income people to make improvements to their homes.
USDA Rural Development operates more than 50 financial assistance programs, Greenfield said. Last year, the agency invested about $700 million in Iowa in all of those programs, she said.