Hospital projects on track

The Allen County Regional Hospital's facilities board took a tour of the new outpatient specialty clinic, which remains under construction. Another remodel project is also underway at the Medical Arts Building.

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June 27, 2022 - 2:48 PM

Allen County Regional Hospital facilities board members took a tour of the remodel project that is converting the former labor and delivery unit into a specialty clinic for outpatient services. From left, Jeff Johnson, board Chairman Terry Sparks, John Brocker, Larry Peterson and Facilities Manager Chad Scott. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

A group tasked with overseeing the county’s health facilities got their first look at a remodel project at Allen County Regional Hospital.

The hospital facilities board took a tour of the construction site at the former labor and delivery unit Thursday. The hospital stopped delivering babies in 2020 when Saint Luke’s Health System began operating there under a lease agreement.

The area will be remodeled to become an outpatient specialty clinic, serving visiting physicians for various types of services such as wound care or cancer treatment. 

It will offer six exam rooms, one procedure room, four infusion bays, a waiting room, areas for health care providers and other areas.

The project will cost about $1.1 million, but the facilities board has the money to cover it. 

Under the lease agreement, Saint Luke’s lease payments cover the remaining cost of bonds to fund construction of the hospital, which was built in 2013. Taxpayers are relieved of that burden, but agreed to continue to fund a quarter sales tax to maintain the facilities. The sales tax collections average about $50,000 per month.

The county still owns the facilities and serves as a sort of landlord, responsible for maintenance and upkeep, including remodel projects. 

During the tour, board members noted points of interest. They appeared to like the layout, with four exam rooms clustered together on the west side and the infusion bays in one large room on the east. In the center will be two exam rooms with a procedure room behind them. That room and some of the exam rooms will have large windows, letting in lots of natural light. 

The only piece of furniture to remain is a nurse’s station. Everything else will be new. 

More than 4,500 square feet will be affected.

Construction began May 16 and should be completed in early September, with an expected opening of Sept. 16.

Part of the new walking trail that surrounds the hospital grounds, courtesy of Thrive Allen County. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

IN ADDITION to the specialty clinic remodel at the hospital, the group also agreed to remodel the Medical Arts Building at 825 E. Madison Ave.

Once that project is completed, they will use the space for a health clinic, moving from the existing clinic at 401 S. Washington  Ave. A lease on the Washington clinic ends this summer; the county owns the Madison Avenue location, so it made more sense to renovate and move the clinic there. 

That project will cost $538,442 and will remodel 8,900 square feet. 

Construction began June 2; it also is expected to wrap up in September and  open by Sept. 12.

The plan is to create 10 exam rooms, five provider offices and a new lab, among other upgrades. It will feature new finishes throughout the building.

The plan did not include improvements to the exterior, but the group hopes to squeeze some upgrades there as well.

They would like to replace the canopy, which has a low overhang. A new canopy would not be as wide but would still provide some cover over the doorway. 

The board also would like to rework the soffits and fascia, as well as the columns.

Price estimates have not yet been provided for that work.

IN OTHER news, the hospital facilities board: 

• Heard an administration update from Steve Schieber, CEO of critical access hospitals for Saint Luke’s. He briefly discussed the recent resignation from former administrator Elmore Patterson. Saint Luke’s is searching for a replacement. He also announced a new physician, Dr. Sam Wilcox, will join Dr. Brian Neely at the Medical Arts Building in October.

• Heard a financial report from Larry Peterson. Sales tax collections were down slightly in April, around $49,000, but rebounded in May with $54,000. He also reported the county had made its final payment for a loan the hospital took out at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to pay operations.  He also talked about a recent audit; the cost was higher than expected, so board members said they might consider changing firms for next year.

• Learned a walking trail around the hospital grounds had been mostly completed. Thrive Allen County secured a grant to build the trail, which is about a mile and roughly traces the property line. A small section winds through woods behind the hospital building. A gazebo will be relocated along the trail, overlooking a small holding pond south of the facility. Eventually, a garden will be added.

• Discussed plans by the hospital’s foundation to update electronic screens near the hospital entrance. Soon, they will replace a large screen to recognize donors. Three other electronic boxes will be replaced. The foundation is considering a plan to highlight historic photos of the former St. John’s hospital, the previous Allen County Hospital and the current facility. The foundation also wants to install plaques to thank taxpayers from the city and county.

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