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Tom Reeves, left, treats Tim Burgess in the new physical therapy center. The physical therapy unit got an early start on making the move to its new and far more spacious quarters in the Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital. Other departments are making their moves this weekend. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)

Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital moves into new facility

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MONTEVIDEO -- There's a different kind of March Madness going on this weekend in Montevideo, and like a high school tournament game, it is every bit as fast-paced and exciting.

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Employees at the Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital began making the move from the 1976 hospital building into the new, attached facility at 7:30 a.m. Friday. The end-of-game buzzer will sound in time for a Monday opening in the new facility.

"We'll walk right in there and start operations,'' said Mark Paulson, hospital administrator.

Actually, it's a matter of running as much as walking: The hospital doesn't expect to miss a beat and will continue to provide its full range of services as the move is in progress.

The excitement is what lies ahead, according to Paulson. The new hospital and medical clinic facility offers 134,000 square feet of enclosed space, as compared to the 45,000 square feet of facility that has served until now.

Every department in the hospital is moving into far more spacious quarters, and some are coming home from off-campus locations.

The move is part of an overall $44 million investment in the health care campus.

The Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital and Montevideo Medical Clinic merged nearly four years ago in anticipation of this project. Now, both hospital and clinic are joined under one roof.

The clinic portion of the construction project, at a cost of nearly $7 million, was completed earlier. The move into the clinic was largely completed at the end of January.

The hospital and clinic also remain linked to the Luther Haven skilled nursing and Copper Glen assisted living facilities, and the entire complex is only a short stroll from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The new complex also features the hospital's first on-site helipad for air ambulance service.

The entire project won't be completed until probably sometime in July, Paulson said. Most of the old hospital building will now be demolished and replaced by a parking lot. Only 8,400 of the original 45,000 square feet will be saved and remodeled for new use.

Paulson said the overall project is aimed at making this one of the best primary care health centers in the state. He said the new facility will make it possible to provide services more efficiently, improve privacy and comfort for patients, while also expanding the range of services offered.

The new hospital is licensed for 25 beds, no different than the one it replaces. But the newly enlarged facility will greatly expand the ability to provide out-patient care, Paulson said.

He said it is believed the new facility will enhance the ability to recruit physicians and other health care providers and, in turn, expand the market area served. A 2005 study by the Montevideo Economic Development Agency identified a population area of 19,000 people served by the health care center.

As a rural area, it's also an aging population where health care services are in high demand.

The hospital and clinic provide 280 full- and part-time jobs, making them one of the largest employers in Chippewa County. They have been able to avoid any staff reductions despite the economic difficulties being experienced, Paulson said.

He added that the project has enjoyed lots of support in the community. A capital campaign has raised $500,000 toward a $1.5 million goal.

Along with the benefits that come with a larger, modern facility, Paulson said he believes patients and staff alike will appreciate the new facility for how well it fits the community. The building's design and motif are based on a rural Minnesota theme. The works of local artists are used exclusively to decorate its rooms and public areas.

A central entrance will serve both the clinic and hospital, and a lobby area will feature an in-house coffee bar and café offered by Java River.

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