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Emergency preparations

Work to start on new $1M DCH emergency department

DICKINSON COUNTY HEALTHCARE System had an official kickoff Monday for building a new emergency department at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital. From left, in front are Dr. Eric Johnson, emergency medical director; Joe Stevens, Dickinson County Board commissioner; Chuck Nelson, DCHS president and CEO; Margaret Minerick, hospital board chair; Nichole Varoni, emergency department manager; Vince La Barbera, Groth Design Group; and Rob Chartier, Miron Construction. In back (not all faces visible) are Brian Donahue, DCHS chief financial officer; Sue Hadley, vice president of clinical services and population health; Kim VanOsdol, hospital board trustee; Alyssa Hartwig, hospital board trustee; Paul Guindon, DCHS director of retail services; Meghan Rossato, executive director of operations; Adrienne Chase, compliance and risk officer; Mandy Shelast, VP of physician services; and Jeff Twardzik, director of plant operations. (Marguerite Lanthier/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Construction of a new emergency department at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital will begin next week with completion of the $1 million project by later summer or early fall, officials announced Monday.

The facility’s transformation will include a complete renovation of over 10,000 square feet of patient care area, including private care rooms with breakaway glass, negative pressure treatment rooms, a respiratory care suite and two triage rooms to address the most urgent care needs. A new waiting area is part of the work as well.

Emergency care will continue without interruption during construction. In the coming weeks the community will be informed through local media, social media and the hospital website of any changes to patient access points, said Joe Rizzo, Dickinson County Healthcare System public relations and development director.

The project’s goal is to provide medical staff with an environment that makes emergency medical care more comfortable, safe and efficient, with increased privacy for patients and their families, said Chuck Nelson, hospital CEO.

“Making our emergency department more comfortable and efficient for everyone is what our community deserves,” Nelson said. “We are giving every resident and guest to our region the confidence of knowing the right care is always close to home when it’s needed most. As the most vital health care provider in the community, it’s our responsibility to continue bringing higher levels of care to all.”

Attending Monday’s kickoff gathering were DCH leaders, members of the hospital board, county commissioners, representatives from Miron Construction Company of Neenah, Wis., and architects from Groth Design Group of Cedarburg, Wis.

In January, Miron was awarded a bid of $918,859 to complete the three-phase project using 70% local participation. Earlier, Goth was named architect at a fee of 7.75% of the project cost.

“We did a survey last year and asked the community what they wanted in the hospital and what they would like to see here,” Nelson said. “And one of the number one items they mentioned was the emergency room. So we’re taking them up on that suggestion, and it will be a state-of-the-art facility, prepared to handle anything, such as the emergency we dealt with last year, COVID-19.”

Margaret Minerick, who chairs the hospital board, said the project shows a commitment to emergency care around the clock far into the future. “It’s a commitment to the slogan that we use — ‘community we love’ — and that’s what we want,” she said. “Quality health care. We have an excellent staff here, we have quality care, emergency care 24/7 and now we’ll have an ED department that reflects that.”

Dr. Eric Johnson, emergency medicine physician, said the medical staff is excited about the project.

“DCH has prioritized excellent care by becoming one of the few facilities in the region staffed exclusively with board-certified emergency physicians as well as highly skilled nurse practitioners, nurses, medics and support staff,” he said. “Our entire team knows the environment is aging. We are upgrading most of the space and prioritizing patient privacy and safety. We are thrilled to offer both first-class care and — coming soon — a first-class facility,” he said.

Patients who receive emergency treatment at DCH can be immediately connected to specialty services in heart care, general surgery, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, internal medicine and other services, all available locally, Rizzo said. In extreme emergencies, the center also can expedite patient transfers to more advanced levels of life-saving care outside of the area.

“The respiratory need brought about by the COVID pandemic really prompted and fueled an even bigger remodel than we had expected,” Johnson said. “Almost 50 percent of our rooms will be negative-pressure suites, suitable and safe for the very best of respiratory care. That keeps the patients safer. That keeps my staff safer. We’re very excited about that. And I haven’t had access to that kind of quality space even in biggest hospitals I’ve worked in.”

Although some changes will be necessary during construction, officials say there will be clear directions on receiving care.

“I ask the patients and the public to be patient with us as we go through this process because at the end it’s all worth the wait and the disruption over the next number of months as we go through the process,” Nelson said. “I think this is the kickoff of many good things to happen to the hospital over the next number of years, and setting the future in a way we didn’t think about a couple of years ago.”

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News editor Jim Anderson contributed to this report.

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