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Open house is set Friday for Rice Care Center Therapy Suites

Patient rooms at the new Therapy Suites at Rice Care Center are all private and include amenities such as cable TV, phone, wireless Internet availability, and a small refrigerator and microwave. Tribune photo by Anne Polta

WILLMAR -- Workers were still completing many of the final details late last week at the new Therapy Suites at Rice Care Center, but the end was in sight.

This week the Rice Care Center will show off the brand-new $2 million facility during a series of open houses, winding up with an open house and tours for the community from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.

"We're all pretty excited," according to Troy Barrick, administrator of the Rice Care Center.

The short-term care facility, which was years in the planning, will provide post-acute care, rehabilitation and therapy for patients who have recently been sick or undergone surgery and who need time to recover before they can safely go home again.

Therapy Suites addresses a regional need that's expected to continue growing as the population ages, Barrick said.

Specialized short-term services range from physical, occupational and speech therapy to wound care, nutritional counseling and skilled nursing. The typical patient is an older adult recently discharged from a hospital who might stay anywhere from a couple of weeks to two or three months, Barrick said.

The new facility will considerably step up the Rice Care Center's capabilities in the short-term stay arena.

A lack of private rooms has long been one of the biggest complaints about the Rice Care Center, Barrick said. "A lot of the issues we needed to address with this project were with the rooms. With Therapy Suites, we go above and beyond."

The new facility boasts private rooms with cable TV, phone and wireless Internet. The hotel-like rooms are furnished with carpeting, large windows that let in natural light, a refrigerator, microwave and reclining chair.

Patients here will have their own dining space, common area and access to a spa and outdoor garden. Deep colors, rich-toned wood and original art by local artists contribute to a feel that's residential rather than medical.

One of the goals was to create a distinct identity for the short-term stay program, a concept that's reinforced the moment patients and visitors walk through the Therapy Suites entrance with its vaulted ceiling and fireplace.

The needs of the short-term stay population are not the same as those of long-term nursing home residents, Barrick said. "They're all having similar challenges. They have the therapy in common. It's a separate focus in a separate building."

Perhaps most importantly, these patients are preparing to resume their normal lives, he said. The design of the Therapy Suites purposely incorporates many of the research findings on how to help patients successfully accomplish this.

"We were looking for a dynamic atmosphere, an environment in which to heal," Barrick said. "There's a vibrant feel to it."

Even the terminology will reflect this. Clients won't be known as residents; instead, they're patients, Barrick said. "Calling them patients has a psychological feel that this is short term."

Services will be individualized with lots of attention to the patient's needs and personal goals, he said. "It's focused on the individual and what they want."

Officials believe the new program space will strengthen what the Rice Care Center can offer and help make it more competitive in the market.

"We'd like to expand our therapy services and stay at the cutting edge. We want to be positioned to do that," Barrick said. "We have four full-time therapists and we hope to expand that. It depends on the acuity and how we go."

Besides the therapists, the facility also will have its own 24-hour registered nurse. The staff has access as well to resources at Rice Memorial Hospital, such as a pharmacist, dietitian and nurses who specialize in wound care.

Visible changes are ahead for the Rice Care Center too. Once Therapy Suites is fully open and occupied, space will be freed in the adjoining long-term care facility to increase the number of private rooms.

Barrick said the long-range plan also calls for major renovation of the long-term care center within the next few years. By the time the entire project is complete, Rice Memorial Hospital, the owner of the Rice Care Center, will have invested upwards of $5 million in building the Therapy Suites and remodeling the nursing home.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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