Mar. 9—GREGORY — Plans are moving ahead for a new hospital to be built in
To fund the hospital, Avera raised more than
Avera tentatively plans to break ground on the hospital on
"When Avera looks at a project like this, they're looking at it as a 40- to 50-year commitment to the community," Timanus said. "When we build a building, that's how much life we're hoping to get out of it. We have four doctors, four nurse practitioners and a physician's assistant, so we have a pretty robust medical staff for a small community. But our coverage area is
An aging boiler system and heating unit — the long-term care facility was built in 1964 and the hospital in 1972 — along with an increased ability to provide outpatient care drove
When the heating system began to fail in 2014, contractors estimated a critical failure within the next five years. Expanding the current facility would have been difficult with farms occupying surrounding areas. Timanus also acknowledged rising construction costs, but also referenced favorable finance rates, "making this an optimal time to build."
The new hospital will sit on 20 acres of land that Avera plans to lease from the
Strengthening ties to the community made the idea of having a stake in the hospital a viable option for the foundation to contribute.
"It shows Avera that, with our community being involved, we want them here," said
Learning from COVID-19
In 2018, Avera embarked on its fundraising campaign for the new hospital and the project received board approval the following year. Avera typically attempts to break ground on a new project within six to eight months after a fundraising campaign, but plans were tabled when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Prior to the pandemic, the project was estimated to cost
New additions to the blueprints include negative pressure rooms — or isolation rooms for patients with infectious illnesses — along with increased security measures and improvements for emergency services.
"In older structures, there really isn't the best air flow," Timanus said. "We measure air exchanges in all our departments. In the new design, every single room we have will have negative air flow. ... If there's something in the hallway, it doesn't go into a room where that sick person is. We have one of those rooms now, but we decided we needed as many rooms as possible with negative air flow."
The new facility will accommodate 10 local providers and specialists, a 24-hour emergency room, diagnostic imaging center, larger surgical suite, dialysis center and a helipad.
"(Twenty years ago), if you came to the hospital, you'd probably be admitted, you'd have a bed and we'd take care of all your needs," Timanus said. "We're finding that insurance companies don't like that plan because it costs them more and patients don't like that either. They'd much rather have outpatient procedures done and they'd much rather have home help come visit them. They'd like to do everything they can to stay out of that nursing home."
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