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Nick Pautzke of Cornerstone Construction in Willmar installs drywall Wednesday in the addition at Rice Care Center. Work on the nearly $3 million project is scheduled for completion in mid-July, officials say. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Rice Care Center expansion just weeks from completion

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West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

All through the winter, staff and residents at Rice Care Center have watched the walls go up, the roof get built and the windows installed for the facility's new short-term stay unit.

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The project is now weeks away from completion, and already officials are starting to talk about the open houses they want to host to introduce the new Therapy Suites to the community.

"It's been very exciting. There's been a lot of positive energy," said Troy Barrick, administrator of the Rice Care Center.

Barrick gave an update on the $2.9 million project Wednesday to the Rice Memorial Hospital board of directors. The board meeting was followed by a tour so board members could see the progress of construction firsthand.

The entire project is expected to be finished and ready for occupancy in mid-July. It will be followed by major renovation to the Rice Care Center itself, which will continue to house long-term care services.

Ground for the new Therapy Suites was broken in November. The project suffered some delays due to difficult winter weather but has managed to remain close to the original schedule. It's also within budget, said Mike Schramm, chief executive of Rice Memorial Hospital.

Meetings are now taking place to plan and discuss everything from staffing to marketing, Barrick said. "We're eager to get started."

The new Therapy Suites will expand and enhance the Rice Care Center's ability to provide short-term rehabilitation services. There's a growing demand for this type of service, which is typically needed by patients who have left the hospital but who require additional therapy or care before they're ready to go home again.

The Rice Care Center already has 13 of these short-term stay beds. With the completion of Therapy Suites, this will increase to 23.

Designers aimed for a soothing, hotel-like environment with private rooms.

Among the amenities: cable TV, phone service, a refrigerator and microwave and hotel-style bathrobes in every room. Wireless service will allow patients and their families or visitors to bring in a laptop and have access to the Internet, Barrick said. "They can just tie into our wireless network and away they go."

Large windows let in ample natural light. The entrance features a vaulted ceiling and a sitting area with a fireplace.

Original art by local artists is being collected to hang on the walls. Landscaping plans also are under way to develop a healing garden that can be shared by the Therapy Suites and the adjacent Rice Care Center.

The staffing plan will include a registered nurse on duty 24 hours a day, a model that mirrors the staffing at many other similar short-stay units. Once the facility opens, more staff will need to be hired, Barrick said. Increases will be incremental, however, until the facility reaches capacity and the census stabilizes, he said.

The specialized services will remain the same: physical, occupational and speech therapy, IV therapy, wound therapy, nutrition counseling, psychosocial programming and more. Barrick said the emphasis is on high-quality care that's also personalized.

It's something that patients value and want, he said. "They feel like a person and not a number."

The physical environment of the new Therapy Suites will enhance the experience, however, and increase the Rice Care Center's ability to gain patient referrals. "We'll be very aggressive with the marketing to the surrounding area," Barrick said.

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Anne Polta

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

(320) 235-1150
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