The beauty of the day matched the beauty of the new hospital in Prairie du Chien on Saturday and everyone from visitors to staff, management and board members seemed in an upbeat mood for the facility’s grand opening.
The Grand Opening of Crossing Rivers Health Medical Center started promptly at 8:45 a.m. with the ceremonial ribbon cutting and then the tours began. Over 1,800 of visitors arrived during the course of the day and most everyone was favorably impressed by the new hospital.
The Crossing Rivers Health Medical Center cost about $50 million in total costs to construct, according to CEO Bill Sexton. Of that $32.4 million was obtained through a USDA loan. About $1.2 million came from the community through fundraising efforts. Much of the remainder came from hospital reserves. Peoples State Bank was also instrumental in financing the construction.
In addition to a host of upgraded services and facilities, the hospital has space to expand and add services in the future. The new hospital is located off Highway 18 across from the airport and near the Wal-Mart on 105-acres. The large rural property makes a lovely vista for the new building and allows for lots of expansion in the future.
Sexton said the hospital was looking for at lest a 30-acre property, when they were lucky enough to find the larger property near the airport.
The new hospital will replace the Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital, located on Taylor Street, which was built in 1957. The old hospital has had 11 additions constructed and is rather confined in its residential neighborhood. For instance, the current helipad for the Med Flight Helicopter is in the parking lot of the Methodist Church across the street.
Accommodating the Med Flight helicopters is just one area that the new facility offers a massive improvement. Not only is there a dedicated helipad, there are heated areas to bring the patient through on the way to the helicopter.
In almost every direction, there is an improvement or an expansion of facilities at the new hospital. One of the new things is a permanent MRI. Something that just was not possible in the old location, according to Crossing Rivers Board President Charlie Connell.
The new facility’s rehabilitation department is bigger and offers more services.
“The emergency room is a huge improvement over the old hospital,” Connell pointed out. “It's much bigger and there’s more privacy for the patients.”
Similarly, the new ambulance bay is heated and much larger and better equipped.
Connell was also quick to point out that the new facility improves patient areas by increasing privacy. He said the patients receive care “backstage” and are invisible to the public.
Sexton noted that every patient room is now equipped with its own shower.
Connell said getting the facility constructed involved three or four main stages. The first was sorting out the options going forward. Those options included improving the existing facility, demolishing the old hospital and building on the site or finding a new site and building a new hospital. With the help of a consulting firm and lots of visits to other hospitals, the decision was made to build on a new site, which would better allow for future expansion.
“It was a long-term decision that was made based on looking out 30 to 50 years at the community’s medical needs,” Connell said.
The new hospital building itself seems open and lit by natural light. It is constructed with lots of stone features inside and out. The construction took almost two years. The architectural firm hired to design the building was BWBR Architects and the general contractor for the construction was Market and Johnson.
One of the many visitors impressed by the new hospital was Wisconsin State Representative Lee Nerison (R-Westby), who was on hand for the grand opening.
“It’s great for Southwest Wisconsin,” Nerison said of the new hospital. “It’s wonderful for people to have this kind of facility this close to home—to have the access to the technology available here.”
Everyone from the state representative to the CEO and president of the board referenced the changes that have occurred in medical care over the years.
“Health care is a lot different now than it was in 1957,” Crossing Rivers Health’s President of the Board Charlie Connell said in reference to the year the old hospital was built.
Crossing Rivers CEO Bill Sexton noted that 60 years ago almost everything was done at the bedside. He noted there were no showers in many of the rooms and most were semi-private rooms, shared with another patient.
At the new hospital all of the rooms are private, according to Sexton. He noted this change means the clinical outcomes tend to be better.
“The patients like it better and the families like it better,” Sexton said.
Sexton also said a lot of medical problems are detected through CT scans and MRI scans, instead of exploratory surgery.
“The early discovery of diseases really helps in the effort to eradicate them,” Sexton said. “It’s amazing the things we can do now.”
All of this can help people live longer and healthier lives, according to Sexton. Another improvement in the new hospital in the expanded surgery space. There are now two 660-square-foot operating rooms, which are increased from the 400-square-foot size of an operating room at the old hospital. In addition, there is a minor procedures room.
Sexton also explained there is ample space to add another operating room should the need arise.
The CEO believes the new facility, and its increased and improved services, will help people avoid traveling long distances for the care they need.
While some local hospitals are discontinuing the delivery of babies, the Crossing Rivers Health Medical Center is embracing birthing with a five-room OB department.
What all of this means to Sexton is that it will help with a rural hospital’s biggest challenge—getting doctors to work in rural areas.
“Having a state of the art hospital helps a lot in attracting doctors,” Sexton said. He noted that while one third of all Americans live in rural areas only 10 percent of doctors choose to practice in those rural areas.
One local doctor is pretty impressed with new Crossing Rivers Health Medical Center.
Dr. Owen Vincent, a family practice physician, told Sexton that he has worked in many critical access hospitals but the new Crossing Rivers was not like any of the others.
Sexton was also happy with the community support the hospital has received.
“The community has responded very well,” Sexton said. “Even among some of those who felt it was not needed, they come in now and it’s, ‘Wow, now I get it’.”
Another important factor in building the hospital was the acknowledgement of the use Iowa residents will give it. Sexton said that 40 percent of the patients and staff at Crossing Rivers is from Iowa.
“It’s a great opportunity and great investment to better serve the community,” Sexton said.