August 6, 2008

Wagner Hospital Project to Begin

By Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic, Mitchell, S.D.

Aug. 6--WAGNER -- As workers prepare to begin the first of a three-phase, multi-million-dollar update to the Wagner Community Memorial Hospital on Friday, the hospital's CEO said it's too early to determine exactly which new specialties will be brought into town.

Ground will be broken Friday for a new 9,500 square foot medical clinic and 2,500 square foot physical therapy facility. Funding for the $2.25 million project will come from both a guaranteed portion and an as-yet-unapproved direct portion of a Community Facility Loan through USDA Rural Development and Commercial State Bank of Wagner.

Bryan Slaba, hospital CEO, said he's "extremely confident" that the direct portion will be approved and is looking forward to using the combined funding to expand the facilities and bring more medical specialists into town.

In the past two years, Slaba said the hospital has been able to bring in specialists in the field of urology, podiatry, audiology and ear, nose and throat. While he wouldn't list the additional specialties he's hoping will come to the hospital after the renovations, he did say he would be consulting with staff and Wagner residents to gauge the need for individual specialties.

"Our facility is really limiting more than anything and we want to increase our availability to our constituents and our community to make sure that we are providing the services here in Wagner rather than having to run (patients) to other, larger facilities," Slaba said.

The first phase of the plan involves constructing a new medical clinic and physical therapy addition. When that work is complete, the second phase will kick in, which will renovate the current clinic to house laboratory facilities within the hospital and transform the former laboratory to hold medical records.

The third phase of the plan will require up to $4 million and will involve a massive remodeling to increase the number of semi-private rooms from seven to 11 as well as construct additional bathroom facilities and other inpatient amenities.

The result, Slaba hopes, will be better infection control and privacy.

"Right now, our inpatient facilities have ... seven rooms sharing a tub and a shower," Slaba said. "Considering that Wagner had more inpatient days in 2007 than any other critical access hospitals in the eastern part of the state east of the river, that's pretty huge."

The groundbreaking for the new medical clinic and physical therapy facility will be at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Slaba said the construction projects are specifically arranged to prevent any closures while work is done. It's a massive renovation, he said, but something that needs to happen to give area patients the most updated services available.

"It's matching up what Wagner desires with what they deserve," Slaba said.


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