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Hospital holds tours of expansion as preview to projected June 22 opening

Ann Lein, the chief nursing officer at Meeker Memorial Hospital, looks over a design plan at a nurse's station at the Meeker Memorial Hospital where a major expansion is taking place. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

LITCHFIELD -- Construction of Meeker Memorial Hospital's 75,000-square-foot expansion project is nearing at an end as the hospital staff plans to open the new addition to patients by June 22.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Meeker Memorial gave public tours of the new wings of the hospital to commemorate National Hospital Week.

During the two days of tours, about 800 people walked through the hospital doors to check out the expanded facility, said Lori Rice, education and marketing coordinator for the hospital.

"We had a lot of great comments," Rice said about the tours. "People were really impressed with the different things we would offer with patient flow. Of course we're still in construction, so there were several things for them to kind of look around yet. But they could see how far we were coming."

Rice said those who experienced the tours saw the new emergency department with its added privacy and additional treatment areas. They also caught a glimpse of the building's new ambulance garage and radiology department, including the hospital's new magnetic resonance imaging unit. The hospital also opened the surgery suite area for the tours.

Along the way, hospital staff members spoke with the people on the tours, filling them in on details about each location they visited in the hospital.

"I think people were just generally curious to see the updates," Rice said. "It's real state-of-the-art, and I think people were pretty impressed with that."

According to the Tribune archive, Meeker Memorial broke ground on the 75,000-square-foot project Nov. 1, 2007, with hopes of completing the expansion by this summer.

"Things are really moving along on the interior as well as now the outside we're kind of putting on some final touches," Rice said. "I think its going well."

With the expansion, the hospital will gain a new emergency unit, more surgery rooms, radiology capabilities and outpatient care.

The hospital's addition is just one phase of a three-part plan for the grounds. According to an interview with former CEO Mike Schramm, phases two and three will focus on renovating the rest of the hospital and making better use of the total space. Those two phases have not been scheduled yet.

Schramm was hired in March as the new CEO for Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar. He will start his new role at the beginning of next month and will not see the official opening.

According to archive, the phase one expansion will cost the hospital about $3.5 million in equity and about $26 million in gross revenue bonds. About a year ago, Schramm said constructions costs were actually coming in under the hospital's project estimate from November 2007.

The hospital -- formerly known as Meeker County Memorial Hospital before an August 2008 name change -- has been on its present site since 1952, when it was licensed as a 70-bed acute care hospital. Today, the hospital functions as a "critical access" nonprofit health facility.

The hospital will not hold any other tours or events until after the tentative June 22 opening. Rice said Meeker Memorial Hospital will formally dedicate the expansion sometime this fall.