Jamestown Hospital looks to moveJAMESTOWN — If all goes according to plan, early 2011 will see the opening of a new, state-of-the-art Jamestown Medical Center.
By: Jackie Hyra, The Jamestown Sun
JAMESTOWN — If all goes according to plan, early 2011 will see the opening of a new, state-of-the-art Jamestown Medical Center.
Bill Kennedy, marketing director of Jamestown Hospital, announced Tuesday the decision of the board of directors — with input from more than 200 staff members — to construct a new hospital rather than remodel the existing facility.
Cindy Gohner, vice president of clinical services, said the current hospital, built in 1927, no longer fits the needs of modern medicine.
“Health care has changed so much,” she said.
Gohner said Jamestown Hospital was designed for inpatient care, but today 70 percent of the hospital’s services are outpatient. Outpatient treatment areas, including labs and radiology, lack sufficient space. Patient rooms and bathrooms are too small, ceilings are too low to accommodate today’s technology and long, narrow hallways are inefficient for staff.
“The way we do our work is based on the design of the facility. We’d like to do it the other way,” she said.
Kennedy said the board considered remodeling the existing hospital and found that option wasn’t feasible because of a number of factors, including cost and space.
“We looked at remodeling this facility, but that means going up (vertically),” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said building more floors would require construction of multi-level parking at $1 million per level.
Also, remodeling the existing building would be more expansive and would not solve major problems — like the inefficiency of long distances between departments.
The location of the present hospital also will not advance the board’s vision for the future — a medical center with all three clinics adjacent to the hospital.
Alan O’Neil, chief financial officer, said the hospital is pursuing negotiations with the parent organizations of Medcenter One, MeritCare and Innovis Clinic to relocate next to the hospital. He said the hospital can’t give the clinics a definite cost until it has a design, but the clinics have expressed interest in the idea. He said the doctors in Jamestown all see the value in a common location that will allow them to work more closely together.
Kennedy said creating a medical center will avoid duplication of services, allow for the purchase of the most advanced equipment and make it easier to recruit medical staff, including specialists, to Jamestown.
“We sincerely hope we can accomplish this,” O’Neil said.
Kennedy said the location of the new hospital was an important question. The board decided that, in order to build what is best for patients and staff, the location must be an open space with room for parking and expansion. The board predicts that — with additional services — the hospital will draw more referrals from area doctors.
“The access and visibility are crucial,” Kennedy said, and a downtown location doesn’t allow for either.
The board has an option on land on the south side of Interstate 94 near exit 257, which would make the hospital easy to locate and access from all directions.
Jeff Fuchs, Jamestown city administrator, said he saw a downside to taking the hospital out of the valley.
“We’ve had a big push in the last few years to revitalize our downtown,” he said.
Kennedy said the board is committed to helping find an appropriate use for the old hospital and will keep the building in good condition until it is repurposed, preferably to continue serving a health related need for the community.
Harvey Huber, board member, said the board has discussed leaving some funds available in case it needs to help retrofit the current hospital’s building for a new use.
O’Neil estimated the cost of the new hospital would be between $30 million and $40 million. The hospital has about $10 million in cash assets and is operating at a profit. The remainder of the money will come from bonding options, a capital campaign drive and government programs the board is studying.
Noel Johnson, Stutsman County chief operating officer, said the general public would not be taxed for construction of the new hospital. Area property owners might be assessed only if the infrastructure needs changes.
“It depends on if there will be infrastructure needs and if the city will step up or JSDC,” he said.
Kennedy said the hospital will see a substantial monetary benefit — $700,000 per year during the life of the construction loan and $200,000 thereafter — because it is changing its status to a “critical access” hospital. That designation was created by Medicare to help rural hospitals by basing Medicare reimbursements on actual costs of service rather than the current payment system, which assumes services cost less in rural areas.
Kennedy said requirements for a critical access designation are that a hospital must be at least 35 miles from any other hospital and have no more than 25 inpatient beds. That bed limit doesn’t include observation beds.
Gohner said Jamestown Hospital is now licensed for 56 beds, has 36, averages 13 to 14 patients on a daily basis and has adequate staffing to handle 25 or 26 inpatients. In the past year the hospital reached 26 patients on two days. Currently, if the numbers rise above that level some patients would be transferred to another hospital.
Gohner said as a critical access facility the hospital will provide exactly the same treatment and procedures now available.
“We don’t believe we’re giving up anything,” she said. “It is not a change in the level of care provided.”
Gohner said if people now have trouble getting admitted to the hospital, it’s not because of space but because of the requirements of their insurance companies.
Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager, questioned what would happen in the event of a disaster or medical crisis, like a pandemic, where many more people would need services. Gohner said in the event of a disaster the hospital could request an exception from the state on the number of patients admitted. Also, observation beds and stretchers don’t count as beds — only patients admitted for treatment are inpatients.
Kennedy said if the hospital grows to need more beds it can drop the critical access designation at any time.
O’Neil said the board has already interviewed potential architects for the new hospital and will choose a firm by August. If plans are submitted and approved as scheduled, construction should begin in late 2010 and be completed by early 2011.
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