WILLMAR—Ground was officially broken Wednesday for a new $11 million outpatient surgery center that will enhance the level of care and meet growing community needs for same-day, lower-cost surgical services.
The project is being undertaken by Willmar Medical Services, a joint venture of Rice Memorial Hospital and Affiliated Community Medical Centers.
“It’s an exciting time for all of us,” said Mike Schramm, president of Willmar Medical Services and chief executive of Rice Hospital.
The new Willmar Surgery Center will bring outpatient surgery services to an entirely new level, he said.
“Ultimately at the end of the day we will have a modern, high-quality, state-of-the-art facility that will serve our patients and community for many years to come,” he said.
That was echoed by Dr. Cindy Firkins Smith, president and CEO of ACMC.
Smith called it “a great day.”
“It’s a great new opportunity we have to take care of patients,” she said.
The new surgery center is being built on the west edge of the ACMC campus, where the current Willmar Surgery Center has been located since it opened in 1986.
Under sunny skies Wednesday afternoon, the mood was festive as ACMC and hospital officials, community leaders and surgery center staff—many still wearing blue scrub gathered under a tent for the groundbreaking ceremony. Afterward they took turns posing with shovels for the ceremonial first dig.
The new surgery center is the largest investment to date by Willmar Medical Services, which also jointly provides medical imaging services and orthopedic care and operates the Willmar Regional Cancer Center, the Willmar Diabetes Center and the Willmar Sleep Center.
As more surgical procedures migrate to free-standing outpatient surgical centers, the technology needs have evolved, said Dr. Jon Mellema, medical director of the Willmar Surgery Center.
Much of the equipment used today “wasn’t even in existence” when the current surgery center was built in 1986, he said.
The new facility will accommodate the latest technology and enhance the ability of staff to provide quality care, Mellema said. It also will offer a better patient experience, with a larger waiting room, more privacy and more comfort.
Space has been an increasingly critical need as well.
The existing Willmar Surgery Center does 7,000 procedures a year, ranging from gastroenterology and urology procedures to pain management, orthopedics and plastic surgery. It has 54 staff and 37 surgeons, said Erika Gjerde, surgery center manager.
“We have far outgrown our current facility,” she said.
At just over 29,000 square feet, the new facility will be more than twice the size of the current surgery center, allowing for increased patient volume and creating room to add more surgeons and staff down the road.
The project has been in the discussion and planning stages for months, Schramm said.
Staff and physicians were closely involved in the process “to make sure we got the layout right and the design right,” he said.
Construction will take approximately a year to complete.
To avoid disruptions in care, the current Willmar Surgery Center will remain open until the new facility is ready to move into. Willmar Medical Services plans to keep the old building for the near-term future for potential other uses.
West Central Tribune by Anne Polta