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St. Joseph's looks to future

Press Photo by Ashley Martin Updates will continue to be made to St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson to keep it up to date, but a new hospital may be in the works.

St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center officials hope to build a new facility in Dickinson, but continue to maintain the existing facility to keep it functional.

"The case is to make investments in the building to maintain the high quality of care that people have come to expect from St. Joseph's Hospital," said Mike Lefor, St. Joseph's Hospital board chairman. "There's been zero dollars spent on things that are frivolous that aren't going to help us continue to maintain what we've got going for the next several years."

Catholic Health Initiatives, which owns St. Joseph's Hospital, recently secured 38 acres of Stark County land on the west side of Dickinson.

The agreement between the hospital and county required the hospital to give the county a down payment of $253,400. The hospital must now decide within two years whether to buy the land for $1.27 million.

Hospital officials hope to build a new facility on that land, but concrete plans have yet to be made.

"Obviously when you make an investment like that the goal is to put a new hospital there, but that's like step 112 and we're on step three," Lefor said. "So we still have a lot of things to get to before we even get to a fairly serious discussion about that and we do need to involve the community, because they're the ones that utilize the services of the hospital."

He doesn't expect concrete plans to be in place until 2012.

A series of public forums will be held over the summer to help officials decide what steps to take. However, dates for the forums have not been established, said Reed Ryman, president and CEO of St. Joseph's Hospital.

"We're going to have quite a few at multiple venues at multiple times to give people the opportunity to come and listen," Reyman said. "We don't even know what all of the community's concerns are. That's kind of the difficulty in how we're going to put this together."

In the meantime, several updates have been added to the existing hospital to keep it up-to-date.

"We're trying to plan for the future, but at the same time, we're living in the present -- we don't want to assume anything," Reyman said. "We're going to continue to operate as we need to moving forward, and we don't want the facility to deteriorate. We have to continue to buy the equipment that we need to be successful."

Equipment in the surgical center of the hospital was recently purchased for $400,000, Reyman said. A roof repair cost an additional $115,000.

What will happen to the existing facility if a new hospital is built is unclear.

"That is one of our major concerns that is going to come up and it's something we're contemplating," Reyman said.

Hospital officials will make decisions about new and existing facilities based on what they believe is best for the community, he added.