Powell will lose one of its two pharmacies in the coming months, but gain another.
As the Shopko Hometown pharmacy appears to be nearing its closure, Powell Valley Healthcare is preparing to open its own retail location by the end of summer or early fall.
The Powell Valley Hospital District board voted to move forward with the estimated $600,000 project last week. Heart Mountain Construction is set to begin work Monday and continue through June.
When the job and inspections are complete, customers will be able to access the retail pharmacy from a new window in Powell Valley Hospital’s main lobby — and from a drive-up window outside. Crews will also renovate the lobby by upgrading the waiting and registration areas while giving a facelift to a portion of the hospital’s facade.
“We are excited to get this project started and look forward to bringing a new retail pharmacy service to the community,” Powell Valley Healthcare CEO Terry Odom said in a statement, adding that the facility “will give the community another convenient option for pharmacy services.”
PVHC already has an in-house pharmacy, which provides drugs to patients at the hospital, some residents in assisted living and long-term care and to hospital employees. However, under the limited in-house license, the dispensary is unable to fill all the prescriptions of nursing home and assisted living residents — and it generally cannot provide drugs to patients who are being discharged.
“One of No. 1 complaints through the hospital — that has been repeated for many years now — is when patients leave, it’s difficult to get those prescriptions,” Powell Medication Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Tippetts told state
officials last month.
Beyond the convenience factor, PVHC Pharmacy Director Steven Hultgren said there have been instances where patients have returned to the emergency room or had to be readmitted to the hospital because of a “lack of timeliness in regard to getting their outpatient prescriptions filled.”
Further, at the Powell Valley Care Center and The Heartland assisted living center, “the medication services currently being provided to our residents by another pharmacy is lacking and there have been issues with compliance,” PVHC officials said in a written overview of the project submitted to the state.
Hultgren said PVHC’s retail outlet could also offer lower prices on certain drugs. A federal program allows healthcare organizations to purchase some medications at a significant discount and “we can then pass those savings on to our patients who need it the most,” Hultgren said, referring to “the underserved, low-income, uninsured patients, who, through having this, will be able to maximize savings.”
Powell Valley Hospital District officials had asked the State Loan and Investment Board for a grant to cover about half of the project’s costs, requesting a $288,731 Federal Mineral Royalty Capital Construction Account Grant.
However, the state board — made up of the Wyoming’s five statewide elected officials — unanimously declined to provide the funding at its Jan. 17 meeting.
Gov. Mark Gordon questioned whether PVHC’s new facility would compete with Powell Drug, which is the city’s other pharmacy. Gordon said small pharmacies “bear an unbelievable burden” as they try to compete with much larger retailers like Walmart; that’s one reason why Shopko — which is a small chain compared to places like CVS and Walgreens — is exiting the pharmacy business.
Meanwhile, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow suggested PVHC’s new pharmacy “really goes right up along the edges of not being appropriate” for state grant dollars, citing the potential conflict with private enterprise.
However, Hultgren told the state board that, while the new PVHC pharmacy may compete with other businesses, that’s not the goal.
“We’re making efforts to make sure that we’re not directly competing and maintaining that professional relationship with the other local pharmacies,” he said.
PVHC had planned the project long before Shopko announced the pending closure of its pharmacy, with the news breaking the day of the state grant meeting. State Treasurer Curt Meier said Powell would have “some interesting circumstances there with only one new pharmacist in town.” However, he, like Balow, suggested PVHC should consider partnering with a private business.
Meier also said the Board of Pharmacy could loosen the restrictions on PVHC’s in-house pharmacy and “give a lot more flexibility to the hospital in Powell without requiring them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the patient health and convenience that’s necessary in that community.”
At its Jan. 28 meeting, the Powell Valley Hospital District board accepted a bid of $547,327 from Heart Mountain Construction of Powell for the pharmacy remodel.
The company’s bid was about $8,000 (1.5 percent) higher than a competing offer made by Diamond Point Construction of Buffalo. However, Heart Mountain got the recommendation from the project architects at Plan One in Cody and PVHC leaders.
“They [Heart Mountain] came in with a very aggressive schedule,” said Plan One’s Ron Yount. “They’re very eager to do this project.” Odom, the PVHC CEO, also noted that Heart Mountain Construction is a local firm.
The company expects to have nearly all the work done by the end of June.
Starting Monday and continuing for several months, visitors can expect to see some changes when they walk in the front door of Powell Valley Hospital.
A contractor is beginning work on a new retail pharmacy, which will be located between the hospital’s main lobby and the existing, in-house pharmacy.
The project will continue through early June and include remodeling the lobby.
PVHC patients and visitors can continue to use the main hospital entrance, but can expect some redirecting in the main lobby/entrance over the course of the project, hospital officials say.
“We will continue to process patient registrations, doing our best to make sure it is as smooth and convenient as possible during this exciting time,” said Kelly McMillen, director of registration.
When completed, the lobby will include two registration stations designed to ensure patient privacy and improve the flow of the registration process.
For more information about the construction project or the new retail pharmacy, contact Pharmacy Director Steven Hultgren at 754-2267.