Despite being a designated critical access hospital, St. Charles Madras no longer meets standards set by the state and by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That’s about to change, thanks to the financial power of the St. Charles Health System and its willingness to invest.

That’s good news not only for Madras, but for the surrounding area served by the hospital, including the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, Fossil, Antelope and parts of Wasco County. The wheels were set in motion in 2013, when St. Charles took charge of the hospital, formerly known as Mountain View Hospital. Under its former structure, the hospital had been unsuccessful in coming up with the funds to bring the facility up to modern standards.

St. Charles announced Tuesday that it will spend $16 million to modernize the Madras hospital, adding 26,000 square feet and reworking the entrance, operating room, emergency department, imaging department and laboratory.

The project will get $10 million from recent St. Charles bonding to cover a 10-year construction plan that includes a new hospital in Prineville, the cancer center in Bend and a large renovation of the Bend hospital. Another $6 million for the Madras project will come from the health system’s reserves.

As The Bulletin’s Tara Bannow reported Wednesday, the Madras designation as a critical access hospital gives it a different reimbursement structure and requires it to have no more than 25 beds, offer round-the-clock emergency care that shares space with an operating room, and be at least a 35-mile drive away from other hospitals.

The renovation will solve numerous problems, including providing extra space needed for technology in the operating room, which was big enough when the hospital opened in 1967, but is now far too crowded. Walls will replace curtains separating beds in the ER, added rooms can be used for emergency department or operating purposes, and a new entrance will include a larger space for food service. Construction is expected to take about a year starting in May 2015.

These much-needed improvements have been a long-time coming, and the plans affirm the positive role of the St. Charles Health System throughout Central Oregon.