The Sedalia City Council approved an ordinance Monday night to authorize Bothwell Regional Health Center to seek funding to replace aging air handlers.

Air handlers are considered essential equipment at the hospital to ensure the safety of patients, visitors and staff by preventing the spread of germs.

An air handler is especially important in operating rooms and intensive care units, where the system creates positive or negative airflow as the situation warrants for infection control. This is vitally important during the ongoing, worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve Davis, chief financial officer for Bothwell, noted that since BRHC is a city-owned hospital, City Council approval is necessary to obtain a $5.5 million loan.

Davis said the hospital is looking to replace eight air handler units (HVAC) that sit atop the hospital's roof.

The oldest ones were installed in 1972, two were installed in 1984 and the newest ones were installed 19 years ago in 2001, Davis said.

“As we deal with the coronavirus, our technology is too old in order to handle a HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air) filter or the UV (ultraviolet) lights,” Davis told KSIS after the meeting.

New units will be able to handle coronavirus as well as tuberculosis and other airborne diseases, he added.

Right now, Bothwell is treating one dozen COVID patients.

The next step, now that the hospital has Council approval, is to approach local banks that will be willing to finance the HVAC upgrade. Next is a request for bids on the project to determine a construction company. An architect has already been lined out for the project, as well as a short list of manufacturers.

“We hope to have everything built by the end of January, and then begin installation,” Davis noted of the timeline.

City Administrator Kelvin Shaw noted during the 20-minute meeting that the HVAC system is integral to Bothwell's operation and that the oldest units are 48 years old, one of which is being held together with baling twine.

“COVID makes it more important to do it now,” Shaw said. New units will clean the hospital's air more efficiently, he added.

The cost of the HVAC upgrade is expected to be around $5 million.

The vote was unanimous, with all Council members present and voting yes.

Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby