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Groundbreaking set for Health Center

Press Photo by Linda Sailer Richardton Health Center administrator Megan Pritzl introduces her newborn son, Wyatt, to the Resident's Council on Wednesday. From left are resident Sister Annella Gardner; Sue Enderle, activity director; and Selma Henke, council president.

After more than 60 years of providing a home for medical services to the Richardton area, groundbreaking for a new Richardton Health Center is set in the spring of 2014.

When complete, the center will house a 22,000-square-foot skilled nursing home and clinic to be located on the northwest side of the city along Highway 10.

USDA Rural Development provided a $5.5 million loan through the Community Facilities program. The total project cost is estimated at $6.2 million with remaining funds being raised by the facility, according to a press release.

"The new facility would not be possible without this financial commitment from USDA Rural Development," board president Clare Messmer said. "The new facility is vital to RHC's continued operation and ability to market to Richardton and surrounding communities."

Jasper Schneider, USDA Rural Development state director, said it is critical to re-invest in local health care facilities.

"We are proud to be part of this project that will offer residents comfortable living options close to family and friends," he said.

Originally built as a hospital in 1950, the project will replace an existing 20-bed nursing home and clinic that the RHC board deemed were structurally inadequate. The board made the decision to move forward with construction during a meeting on July 23, 2012.

"It was not an option for us to close," Messmer said.

The nursing home and clinic have a combined total employment of 45 and provide more than $800,000 in wages.

"Richardton couldn't lose one of its largest employers," she said.

The board is working in tandem with the Richardton Healthcare Foundation.

The foundation's goal is to make sure there is enough money for operations. The Nov. 2 fundraiser is designated for construction of the new facility, Foundation president Doug Hauck said.

"From a business standpoint, the tipping point is 20 patients, and so if we get to 24 beds, it sure helps our cash flow," Hauck said. "Of course, we're pretty proud of our health center here in Richardton. It's been part of the Richardton landscape for 60 years."

Messmer said the nursing home is small enough to provide individual care to each resident, and once completed, will be more efficient as a one-story facility. Residents no longer will have to leave the facility to visit the clinic across the street. They simply walk down the hallway.

The health center will split space with 19,000 square feet dedicated to a 24-bed nursing home. Most of the rooms will be private and there will be larger commons areas.

The other 3,000 square feet will be used for the clinic that includes three exam rooms and one procedure room.

The Richardton Health Center is managed by Health Management Services out of Billings, Mont.

"They are specialists in managing health care facilities," Messmer said. "They are very efficient in what they do."

Magan Pritzl, LNHA, came on board as administrator of the Richardton Health Center in April. Moving here from Fargo with her family, she started her career as a certified nursing assistant in long term care and acute care. She worked as an administrator-in-training and was an administrative assistant before joining the Richardton staff.

"Actually, I'm a second-generation administrator," she said. "My mother was in long-term care administration too."

She is looking forward to moving into a new facility -- one having the clinic in the same building.

"That will be such a great advantage," she said.

Pritzl said one challenge of operating a nursing home is to find housing for staff.

"We can get people to come into the area, but really affordable housing is not available," she said.

The positive about the Richardton Health Center is the staff, she said.

"It's a caring family, a very warm environment," she said. The staff is so nice. Everyone comes to discussions if we need to change something. It's a great working environment."

Pritzl and her husband, Travis, have a four year old daughter, Mary, and a one-month-old son, Wyatt.

"From the minute I walked into the door, I've felt overwhelming support," she said. "Everybody knows everybody or they are related. It's been very warm and very friendly and I'm happy about that."