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Swift County Benson Hospital begins new construction project on 100th birthday

Crews work on a $5.3 million expansion of the Swift County Benson Hospital. The project includes new space for the Affiliated Community Medical Centers clinic and physical therapy department. It is scheduled for completion in September 2013. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

BENSON -- One hundred years after it opened its doors the Swift County Benson Hospital is expanding its campus with a $5.3 million construction project.

Ground was broken June 25 on the project, which includes a 25,874-square-foot-expansion that will house the Affiliated Community Medical Center clinic as well as a larger physical therapy facility.

Construction is expected to be completed in September 2013.

Embarking on such a project on the 100th anniversary of the hospital is a testament to the hospital's viability and community support, said Frank Lawatsch, hospital CEO.

"I can't say enough about the local community," he said, adding that if residents didn't access medical care in their home community the project couldn't have been undertaken.

Besides local fundraisers and donations, the county provided a $2 million loan at a low rate of 2 percent that will save an estimated ½ million dollars in interest payments, said Lawatsch.

Swift County financial institutions provided the remainder of the financing, which includes municipal revenue bonds that will be repaid with revenue generated from the hospital operations.

"This is a fairly good sized project for us," said Lawatsch, and may be the last major project for a while.

This is the fourth significant construction project the hospital has undertaken since 2003, when much of the hospital was renovated, the emergency room moved and the rehab facility expanded.

In 2006 the surgical department was expanded and in 2008 there were renovations to the pharmacy, oncology and mammography areas.

The latest project includes a 13,747-square-foot, single-story clinic on the western side of the hospital campus. The clinic will be leased by ACMC, which has a 20-year contract with the hospital.

The new $2.61 million clinic will be physically connected to the hospital so staff and patients can easily move from one facility to the other. There will be 54 new parking spaces added to the space.

ACMC currently leases 8,700 square feet of space on the second floor of the hospital.

The new project came about when ACMC approached the hospital about updating the look of that space and Lawatsch suggested that a space study be conducted.

The consultant concluded that ACMC could use 18,000 square feet of space, said Lawatsch, but because of the anticipated lease costs the plan was trimmed to 13,747 square feet.

The clinic will have space for seven providers -- there are currently five, as well as labs, offices and 23 exam rooms that will be larger than the current exam rooms to allow improved handicapped accessibility.

"It'll be a nice clinic," Lawatsch said.

Five houses were removed to make way for the new construction, including two houses the hospital had previously owned. Four of the houses were relocated and one was demolished, he said.

Once the clinic moves out of the second-floor of the hospital, that space will be used for medical records and health information. It's possible the hospital's home health services, which are currently housed in an off-site location, may also be moved there.

The project also includes a new 3,646-square-foot physical therapy and rehab facility, with six private treatment rooms, gym with exercise and rehab equipment a dedicated occupational therapy suite and offices.

A docking station will allow mobile MRI vehicles to be connected to the physical therapy facility so patients won't have to be wheeled outside.

An area inside the hospital will also be renovated for a lab, cardiac rehab and other services.

The cost of construction for the hospital portion of the project is $2.5 million.

Contractors for the project are Breitbach Construction of Elrosa. NEXT, Inc. of Sioux Falls, S.D., which has worked on past projects at the hospital, is serving as the construction manager.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750