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Building health: St. Joseph's a third of way to private fundraising goal for new hospital

Leigh Hantho, construction manager for the new hospital, discusses progress from the roof of the Medical Office Building. The project is scheduled to be complete next fall.1 / 2
Above, construction work continues at the future site of St. Joseph's Hospital on Monday.2 / 2

As crews hammer away at the new St. Joseph's Hospital and office building in the northwest corner of Dickinson, fundraisers have been making progress toward their goal of $15 million in private pledges for the project.

Construction is about a quarter complete, with crews on track to finish most outdoor work by winter. Behind the scenes, the hospital's foundation has raised about $5 million, a good chunk of which is coming from oil-related companies.

The $100 million hospital will be half the size of the old one -- a sign of its intention to be a more efficient hospital focused on overall preventative health and outpatient care instead of overnight patient stays.

If the private fundraising goal isn't met -- though the hospital is hopeful it will be -- construction wouldn't be delayed but it would have to reconsider its budget, St. Joseph's President Reed Reyman said.

The other $85 million in funding is coming from the hospital's parent company, Catholic Health Initiatives.

The push for a more proactive health focus -- which may also result in broader health programming for the community, hospital representatives say -- is Catholic Health Initiatives' response to the Affordable Care Act.

"We hope to build healthier communities in southwestern North Dakota by bringing better access and experiences to consumers of health care resources," St. Joseph's spokeswoman Stephanie Fong said in a statement.

"In a rural setting like ours, this also means reaching people where they are at -- where and when they need care."

The focus now will be on "keeping people well and keeping people healthy," Reyman said.

The ACA is expected to cost $2 billion in lost reimbursements for Catholic Health Initiatives, which includes 87 hospitals and 40 residential facilities nationwide, he said.

The current St. Joseph's Hospital was built in an era of inpatient care, with 80 percent of its space devoted to patients staying extended times for treatment, construction manager Leigh Hantho said.

The new hospital will have only about a quarter of its space devoted to inpatient care because the nature of medicine has shifted so much toward outpatient procedures, he said.

It will also increase its capacity for births -- it has seen a bit of an oil boom baby boom, with births in the hospital increasing about 28 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Design of the building, for which construction began in January, maximizes efficiency and natural light.

The hospital also has a photographer taking pictures of the region, which will be the hospital's wall art, Fong said.

Oil spurs quicker upgrade, pledges

St. Joseph's was already planning its upgrade when the oil boom hit Dickinson, so the hospital pushed its plans ahead and is now planning to open in fall 2014, instead of the original plan of 2016 or 2017.

Along with pushing up the start date, the oil boom brought dollars.

Marathon Oil and Wyoming Casing are the top two donors, giving $1 million and $500,000, respectively.

These and other oil-related companies make up about a third of donors who gave $100,000 or more.

Other major donors include local banks and businesses.