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New facility plan needed for Willmar, Minn., hospital

Rice Memorial Hospital lab technician Jamie Aubart works Friday in the close quarters of the medical lab. The lab is located in the east wing of the Willmar hospital, which was left mostly untouched by the most recent hospital-wide project. Work is already planned for the medical imaging department, also in the east wing, and a study of space needs overall will begin after an architect is selected. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR — Rice Memorial Hospital is preparing to launch a study of the hospital facility, focusing on current and future space needs and how to plan for them.

Representatives of three architecture firms will be interviewed April 2 by hospital leaders and the board of directors. One of the firms will then be chosen to help guide the hospital through the study.

It has been more than a decade since Rice took a comprehensive look at its space needs. The last plan, developed in the late 1990s, led to a $50 million-plus expansion and renovation that began in 2002 and was completed four years later.

But demands for space have continued to evolve, and hospital officials say it’s time to tackle a new comprehensive plan for the facility.

The upcoming study was prompted by needs in the hospital’s medical imaging department, which was last renovated 15 years ago. Imaging services, along with the laboratory and other departments in the east wing of the hospital, were left mostly untouched by the most recent hospital-wide project.

Plans have already been drawn up for changes in the imaging department, said Mike Schramm, chief executive of Rice Hospital. Construction documents are being developed, with bidding scheduled for early May, he said in an update given Wednesday to the hospital board of directors.

The imaging department project, including financing, falls under the oversight of Willmar Medical Services, the joint venture between Rice Hospital and Affiliated Community Medical Centers that owns and operates medical imaging services at both health care organizations, as well as the Willmar Surgery Center, Willmar Regional Cancer Center, Willmar Diabetes Center, and anesthesia and sleep laboratory services.

As plans for revamping the imaging department took shape, however, it triggered a wider look by hospital officials at what the impact will be on other departments in that wing of the hospital.

“The imaging footprint is going to grow,” Schramm said. With more space taken up by imaging services, Rice will need to address the neighboring laboratory department and other nearby services as well, he said.

That led to a decision to study the hospital’s overall use of space.

Schramm said the study will examine a number of issues: trends in patient volume, changes in those trends, patient flow, how space is currently being used, and how it could be used more efficiently.

“All of those things will be incorporated in the space planning process,” he said.

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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