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SWHC calls portion of plans a future add-on

February 27, 2015


Hospital Design

Hospital clarifies recent project update

By Bryce Martin | Pioneer Editor |

Editor’s Note: The Pioneer sought additional clarifications regarding the Southwest Healthcare Services hospital and long-term care project plans this week after a story giving an update on the project was published in the Feb. 20 edition.

While the architect and contractors for the Southwest Healthcare Services project updated staff at the Bowman health care provider last week, it was clarified this week that part of the plans would potentially be left out of construction due to overwhelming costs.

Southwest Healthcare CEO Becky Hansen told the Pioneer on Wednesday that the project to co-locate the hospital’s services has always been the main priority. Items detailed in subsequent plans for the new hospital and long-term care unit, however, detail several aspects that might not be seen once the hospital is complete, such as a second-floor above the clinic or a redesigned Heritage Wing.

Those projects, as Hansen explained, are considered “alternates” that SWHC can add on whenever possible. The core of the project is the critical access hospital and long-term care unit.

“They’ve always been add-ons since the base project from 2012,” Hansen said. “Maybe internally, we were not calling them alternates, but for the bidding process, they’ve been alternates.”

The reason for considering those projects alternates is funding.

“The market conditions are showing us that the costs of construction are much higher than they were six months ago,” Hansen said. The overall plans for the hospital have not changed, but what SWHC can do is limited at this point, she added.

The plans under review by the North Dakota Department of Health are for the entire original project — a central facility that would house the clinic, emergency department, chapel, long-term care unit, Sunny Apartments, swing beds, acute care rooms, Heritage Wing, laboratory and rehabilitative and radiology departments.

The Heritage Wing was initially planned as the first phase of the project, but the cost constraints are making that seem unlikely.

“We have worked through the current building and found that we can provide and accommodate the residents’ needs very well,” Hansen said.

There’s also a possibility that SWHC can add more private, single rooms for its residents, but not increase its bed count. With the original plan of reconstructing the Heritage Wing, the private room availability would have decreased considerably.

Patient care, the operational side of the project, would change, Hansen admitted.

The Heritage Wing is a “unique part of the organization, but we feel that we can structure it so we can accommodate those residents in a good way to take care of them and their needs,” she said.

Dan Peterson, project liaison between SWHC and the project’s contractors, said any confusion for the SWHC staff members likely stemmed from their in-depth planning of their individual areas.

“Some people are always going to be disappointed at the end of the day, just because feedback they gave them may not actually come to be when the bids come in,” Peterson said.

Hansen admitted SWHC does not have all the answers for its project.

There is still looming uncertainty regarding some aspects of the final project as discussions are being held and key aspects are in process. “There are a lot of moving parts,” Hansen explained.

While many variables are up in the air, Hansen said those are not stopping the project from moving forward.

Additional possible funding is also being revisited and worked on, according to Hansen.

At the time SWHC really began to delve into the plans and obtain crucial funding for the project, they were unaware of the exorbitant costs that would come for them down the line. Once bids started to come back for the project, prices had doubled, as Peterson explained.

That was a tipping point for the project.

SWHC originally based costs for its project — to help determine a figure to seek funding — on the costs involved in the construction of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Sanford Clinic in Dickinson. At that time, those project’s bids were coming in pretty much on par with estimates.

But when it came time for SWHC to seek bids for its project, the numbers were greatly skewed from project estimates.

“Nobody could have anticipated this type of an increase,” Hansen said.

Still, it was mentioned that additional bids could potentially come back on par with original estimates, though SWHC is planning for a multitude of contingencies if they do not.

If SWHC did decide to move on some of the additional projects in the future, those would already be approved once the Department of Health renders its opinion on the project. SWHC would not need to resubmit plans.