Building update: Here's what's happening behind the walls of Tri-County Health Care's new building - Wadena Pioneer Journal | News, weather, sports from Wadena Minnesota

2022-06-15 13:55:47 By : Ms. Vanessa Lei

WADENA — Stepping inside Tri-County Health Care’s rural health center of the future this April gave a glimpse at what few will ever see inside this massive building.

It’s at that time, almost one year into construction, when sheetrock was just covering certain rooms like the inpatient and delivery areas. Meanwhile other areas of the building's guts were exposed. Steel beams, metal studs, conduit, gas lines, water lines, fasteners and more were laid out in expert fashion to show just how much material and work has to go into this 128,000 square foot space.

Stepping inside gives a feeling of just how massive the place is. As wall coverings go up the space will undoubtedly start to feel smaller, warmer and more inviting than the industrial feel it has now.

Mortenson Construction project manager Jessica Deitner and Tri-County Health Care President and CEO Joel Beiswenger offered a tour for Wadena Rotary members on April 18. It was the largest tour group to date and they were able to walk nearly all areas under construction. The facility is heated now so work can be done in comfort despite the winter weather outside.

Starting on the west end of the campus, recent snowfall on the roof was melting and finding its way inside the building as the roof on that portion is not yet complete. Beiswenger shared that overall, the building is basically split down the middle. The front portion is an area the general public will be able to enter. There is a long corridor leading from the front entry on down to the emergency entry. That’s the only area the public can enter beyond being given access to the inner workings of this place. Beiswenger calls it on-stage and off-stage design.

“There’s a concept to this actually a Disney theme park design,” Beiswenger said.

The idea is the public sees what they need to see, not the maintenance side of things or staff that they don’t need to have contact with.

At its core are staffing stations and offices that the public does not access or see. Patient rooms are even meant to offer separation and privacy. In delivery rooms the husband supporting his wife can remain on one side of the room. Hospital staff will likely have no need to go beyond the other side of the room.

Beiswenger said this is an area the current building struggles with. To get to certain areas requires you to walk by all sorts of people and places, perhaps taking away privacy.

“It’s going to be calmer, so, much more appealing environment. We are very excited about what that means from a privacy perspective,” Beiswenger said.

The tour worked in a clockwise direction, which is the same movement that workers are following as they complete their work. The heart of the building, the utility center was installed first. The three delivery rooms, which flank the north side of the building and boast huge windows up towards the sky, are nearly complete. Heading eastward, inpatient rooms are also closing up with sheeting now that all exposed beams in the ceiling and walls were covered with fire proofing.

Fireproofing is extensive and was clear to see at this stage. First of all there is almost no wood in the entire facility. All walls are made of steel studs, all ceilings made up of steel beams. The entire ceiling, exterior walls and many interior support structures are completely covered in fireproofing material. Water sprinklers run through the whole facility. The only wood in the place is where small pieces of plywood are used in the interior of the wall where TVs, screens and such will be fastened.

It feels big, but Tri-County Health Care is building less than the building they will leave behind. That’s because many support staff positions will stay behind in the current building. While others will exit the Wesley Building. There is also a focus on fewer inpatient rooms, just 15, in a time where there is a shrinking need for inpatient beds.

“So, 15 rooms is going to take care of 99.9% of our needs – unless we are in a pandemic,” Beiswenger said. In that situation, which could rise again, they may have some challenges to overcome with shifting stations, not unlike what they did during the peak of COVID cases in the area in their current building.

Beiswenger said the construction of this building is meant to be efficient. Patient rooms are standardized, all identical so no matter what room they enter, staff should know exactly where everything is. Those are keys in patient and staff safety, according to Beiswenger.

Beiswenger shared he is very pleased with how the construction has come together under the leadership of Mortenson Construction.

“We are on time and under budget for this project,” Beiswenger said.

Coming in under budget has allowed Tri-County Health Care to add on one item they earlier had to take out — a fourth operating room. Approvals for that addition are still in the works. The three current operating rooms were sheet-rocked and even have some painting done. Walls will be covered with a washable liner. Each operating room has a spot where four different gas lines come in for oxygen, suction, nitrous oxide and medical air. Extra steel beams are installed in the ceiling where booms will be installed. This is where operating lights and equipment would be installed from the ceiling.

“It’s amazing how much actually hangs from a ceiling in an OR that used to be floor mounted or didn’t exist 20-30 years ago,” Beiswenger said.

Everything coming into rooms like these is what makes this project worth about $400 a square foot. The project as a whole is expected to cost around $72 million.

Other rooms the group saw include PACU (Post-anesthesia care unit) bays or places where people will be recovering.

Delivery rooms are near completion. Each has a bath where mother’s can have a water birth if they prefer. Patient rooms have a window for staff to look in to see how the patient is doing without the need to open the door and intrude. These rooms all open up with a great deal of natural light from the near floor to ceiling windows.

Universal platform rooms are busy rooms which can be used by inpatient, outpatient, emergency department, radiology, surgery and more as they are centrally located to be accessible to the different departments.

“The idea is that different departments need them at different times of the day,” Beiswenger said.

Stepping into these rooms is fulfilling for those who’ve followed along the journey from being on paper, to the mock up these rooms in the old Family Dollar building, to seeing the bones of the room rise up on a concrete pad at a former farm site.

Beiswenger explained that along the way, staff tour the site to give their thoughts on if outlets or switches are in the best place. They’ll continue to be a part of the conversation.

While the spring summer and fall offered excellent conditions, winter has been and continues to be difficult to contend with. Deitner said the exterior was greatly helped thanks to about 90% of the exterior walls being prefabricated.

The entire construction has been done without water on site, other than large water tanks that the city of Wadena comes and fills regularly. The site is hopeful to have water by September, but the utility extension project needs to get underway soon to make that happen.

This project has about 110 craftspeople on site currently helping to punch the long to-do list. Substantial completion is planned for Dec. 30, 2022. The staff then have a couple months to get familiar with the new building before a planned opening of March 2023.

Construction has been ongoing since a groundbreaking in May 2021.