The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and curiosity. After months of planning, heavy machinery and construction workers are finally building our rural healthcare center of the future.
Questions have been coming in from all over the region and I wanted to personally address some of the concerns and curiosity.
Will the new hospital make my taxes go up?
No, taxes will not increase due to the construction of the new facility. Tri-County Health Care is a private, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization. The construction of the hospital will have no impact on your property taxes. Additionally, other public improvements including water, sewer and electricity being delivered by the City of Wadena are being covered by special assessment to Tri-County Health Care. Any roadway changes on Hwy 10 and 11th Street NW are being paid for with a combination of a state bonding bill and MnDOT grant, with any additional costs being provided by TCHC. Anticipated improvements on Greenwood Avenue are being funded by MnDOT county/state aide highway funding.
Is there a storm shelter? Will patients be safe during a tornado or high winds?
It is true that we are building a single-story building without a lower level but the structure of the building is steel and masonry so it is inherently safe. Precautions built into the structure will make it a suitable storm shelter when needed. We do have interior rooms without windows that patients and staff can use during storm events.
What are the future plans for current facilities?
Approximately 30,000 square feet of the current hospital building will be maintained for use by TCHC staff. Most of our support services, including finance, business services, marketing, information technology, medical records and many others will remain at the current site. Any unused portions of the current hospital will be maintained and reserved for other potential uses.
TCHC will be maintaining the lower level of the Wesley building for utility management purposes. We are exploring other opportunities with economic development regarding the Wesley building.
The Rehab building will be another opportunity for reuse and redevelopment in the future.
There are no plans to demolish or abandon any of our campuses.
Will the gravel roads nearby be paved?
Greenwood Avenue will be paved as part of the redevelopment of that road as a county/state aid highway in conjunction with using it as a corridor for water and sewer delivery to TCHC. There are no plans to pave any other gravel roads in that neighborhood at this time.
Will wetlands in the area be affected?
Approximately 30% of our 76 acres are identified as wetlands. Approximately 4.1 acres of wetlands had to be impacted with the construction of the new building. We have partnered with Soil & Water Conservation departments and other local, state and federal agencies to meet all mitigation requirements. We did this to provide the best possible solution for preserving the natural landscape. Using the wetland credit bank process, we have provided funding to support the replacement of these wetlands in other areas.
Will the new facility be easier to navigate?
Yes, the new facility will be much easier to traverse. We are using a design concept called onstage/ offstage which provides much greater separation of patient space from staff space. This layout is a big part of enhancing privacy while creating a calm and healing atmosphere for the new building.
Will the exam rooms be bigger?
Yes, all of our exam rooms will be larger and laid out more efficiently. The vast majority of our exam rooms will be standard in their design, with the exception of specialized rooms. This will streamline care across the board.
Will the price of appointments and procedures go up?
We will not increase pricing or payments. In healthcare, virtually all payment and reimbursement contracts are negotiated and set by specific policies of Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers. This doesn’t mean there will never be an inflationary increase associated with other business factors.
Where will the helipad be located?
The helipad will be located east of the new building. It’s being constructed as close to the emergency department as possible to allow for the safe transfer of patients. Helipad regulations are highly specific and our helipad is being built to the highest standards as indicated by state and federal aeronautic standards. It will be a safe distance from buildings, roadways and parking lots.
Why have so many trees been removed?
We tried very hard to only remove enough trees to facilitate the project. The building site has been identified as a habitat for a protected bat species. We have followed advice from environmental agencies to ensure that we are not negatively impacting the bats’ migration and nesting process. We have removed habitat, but because we did so in the appropriate time frame, normal migration occurs. The bats will find other trees to nest on our property or elsewhere.
Are houses being constructed behind the hospital?
The activity you see on the northwest corner of our property is associated with our use of construction-grade fill and sand available in that portion of the property. This has saved us several hundred thousand dollars by not having to purchase soil and transport it. We constructed a temporary road to avoid impacting the other township and county roads around the property. Currently, there are no plans to do any other construction. However, in our long-term vision of the site, we do believe there are many developable acres and new housing on the northern side of the property could be a possibility.
Where exactly is the main entrance?
There will be two entrances for patients and guests. Both are located on the south side (Hwy 10 side) of the building. The west entrance will be considered the main daytime entrance for our clinics and many of our hospital services. That entrance will be open and staffed during the day, with definitive hours to be determined. The east entrance, which is located by the emergency department and ReadyCare, will be our 24-hour entrance and how you access those services. This is also where you enter if you wanted to visit an inpatient.
I plan to continue addressing questions as I receive them. For more information on the new building project, please check tchc.org/build2023 and follow Tri-County Health Care on social media. If you have questions about the project, please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joel Beiswenger is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Tri-County Health Care in Wadena.