Tri-County Health Care center funding almost finalized

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The project is largely funded by United States Department of Agriculture loans along with a capital campaign and Minnesota banks. In the next few weeks, the USDA funding will be approved, as Tri-County Health Care President and CEO Joel Beiswenger said in a virtual press conference Thursday, March 25. With these approvals, the project will break ground on May 4 at 2 p.m. The total project cost is $72 million.

While the pandemic changed the timeline of the project, it did not change the floor plan of the rooms and staff and patient areas. One of the ways planned is the south side of the building for patients and visitors and north side for staff. The entire plan was reviewed after learning about the coronavirus and the airborne spread of the virus.

“We set up a great facility in our original design and everything we’ve learned about COVID didn’t require us to change anything on that,” Beiswenger said.

The pandemic did highlight the need for managing an airborne illness, which brought a change to the air handling system of $500,000. Now, whole sections of the hospital and emergency settings can be converted to negative pressure air spaces. These spaces remove the air directly out of the building instead of into the rest of the center. There will also be additional ducting in the clinic and air scrubbers and filter systems.


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The center will be located along Hwy 10, just beside 11th Street SW and the Wadena County line. With 76 acres, there is plenty of space for any future expansions, as Beiswenger said.

The health center of the future looks like this with a planned reconstruction of 11th Street to provide for better viewing of the building and a safer angle for entry for those looking to make a stop.
Image courtesy Tri-County Health Care

The health center of the future looks like this with a planned reconstruction of 11th Street to provide for better viewing of the building and a safer angle for entry for those looking to make a stop.
Image courtesy Tri-County Health Care

The center is geared to blend technology with human touch as well as the peace and tranquility of the location, as Beiswenger explained. One of the ways you’ll see this is through the large amount of glass in the public areas, which act as a beacon out to the community and bring the outside environment in.

“I’m not really calling it a hospital because again very little of our activity really is in-patient setting. It is outpatient,” Beiswenger said. “It does include obviously hospital beds but it really is something different than what we would think of as a traditional hospital.”

Inpatient manager Theresa Mack walks visitors through an inpatient room Sunday, Jan. 19, at the former Family Dollar building in Wadena.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Inpatient manager Theresa Mack walks visitors through an inpatient room Sunday, Jan. 19, at the former Family Dollar building in Wadena.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

When the Hwy 71 hospital was built in 1974, 85% of care was focused on in-patient settings and now 83% is out-patient. The new center will have 15 in-patient rooms and 15 outpatient spaces.

“One of the key elements of the project is that we are creating rooms that are universal in their design around the whole building,” Beiswenger said. “That makes it safer as the staff are working in it, so everything’s in the same place in every room.”

The specialty, rehab and primary care clinics will be on the west side of the building. In the rear of the building, air handling, electrical, plumbing and administrative space are the only non-clinical services. A majority of the support services and staff will remain at the Hwy 71 location. There is also conference space near the front of the center for community events.

On the more ‘hospital’ side of the center, there will be surgery, diagnostic imaging and the pharmacy and infusion center.

Within the center, people’s access without a guide or nurse is limited to ensure security, safety and privacy, according to Beiswenger. Patients will also wait in more designated waiting areas depending on which department they’re going to.

A rendering of the healthcare center exterior as of March 2021.

A rendering of the healthcare center exterior as of March 2021.

As construction prices have increased, Beiswenger said bidding for the project in December 2020 and January 2021 was a “blessing in disguise” with decreased labor costs. The bids were below projections by $400,000. Though material costs such as steel that will be used for supports and studs throughout the center have increased.

The project timeline is about 22 months with an opening slated for March 2023. The May 2021 groundbreaking ceremony will be livestreamed for the public as a “lower key” event to continue following pandemic precautions in place.

“We’re very excited about that,” Beiswenger said. “It is a bit heartbreaking quite honestly that we can’t go really big on our groundbreaking because this is that once in a career, for me certainly, and maybe once in a lifetime for lots of folks sort of event. But that is the reality and the hand we’re dealt so like everybody else through the pandemic we will adapt to it.”

A brief history of the project

  • About four years ago, Tri-County started a 15-month process with HGA for a master plan. The result became building a new facility on a new site.

  • In March 2019, the details of the planning really began, and HGA was named design architect for the project.

  • The site on Hwy 10, previously the Taggart’s alpaca farm (not llamas), was selected in June 2019.

  • When the pandemic started, the project was temporarily suspended as of April 2020, a decision that Beiswenger still describes as “very, very difficult.”

  • The project kicked off again in July 2020 with Tri-County being able to multitask without affecting the mission critical work of caring for patients and the community, as Beiswenger said.

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