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New Smith County hospital set to open Aug. 8

July 30, 2018

SMITH CENTER, Kan. — After 16 months of construction activity, officials here expect to be ready to open the new Smith County Memorial Hospital and Family Practice for business on Aug. 8.

A grand opening celebration has been planned for 2-5 p.m. on Aug. 5. The new, 60,000-square-foot facility stands south of East U.S. Highway 36 on a 40-acre site near the Smith Center high school campus.

“We welcome the public to this event,” said Allen Van Driel, hospital CEO, in a news release. “The residents of Smith Center and (the) county as a whole have been fantastic partners in this journey, and we’re excited to invite the public to share in the ceremony.”

The current hospital at 614 S. Main St. will remain open until the switchover, and patients needing medical attention should continue to go to that location until Aug. 8, the hospital said in a news release.

Finish-up work including landscaping and construction of the hospital entrance from U.S. 36 are under way this month. The highway is being widened to allow for turning lanes for both eastbound and westbound traffic entering the hospital campus. Meanwhile, climate control and other systems are being brought online and computer servers have been installed.

Memorial tablets honoring county veterans also have been relocated from the existing hospital, which was built in 1951 and is being replaced because it has aging and deteriorating infrastructure, is undersized and falls short of current codes, especially concerning accessibility.

The new facility will include in-patient hospital rooms; an attached primary care clinic; space for visiting specialists to see patients; an emergency room; labor and delivery facilities; and space for outpatient procedures, therapy and rehabilitation services.

The current hospital and clinic encompass about 35,000 square feet.

Hutton Construction of Wichita, Kan., is the general contractor for the project, having bid an amount not to exceed $21.3 million for the job under a “construction management at risk” contract. That amount does not include land acquisition, utilities, architectural fees, interest incurred on bond funds during construction, or fixtures, furniture and equipment being purchased for the facility.

Health Facilities Group, also of Wichita, is providing architectural services for the project.

The new facility has been contemplated since late 2013, and Smith County got 80 percent approval from voters in an advisory election on whether to go ahead with a project 2 1/2 years ago. Ground was broken in February 2017.

In his newsletter update to patrons for the month of May, Allen Van Driel, hospital CEO, said Hutton appeared to be running about two months ahead of schedule for finishing construction and was poised to finish its work for several hundred thousand dollars less than the $21.3 million maximum.

Long-term financing for the project will be in the form of a 35-year, low-interest loan from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. Interim financing is being provided through revenue anticipation bonds issued by the Smith County Public Building Commission. No county general obligation bonds are being issued.

Additional sources of money for the project include $2.5 million provided by investors taking advantage of the Federal New Markets Tax Credits program and another $2 million contributed by private donors including hospital staff and board members and medical providers.

Management of the Long Term Care unit that is part of the current hospital has been turned over to SunPorch of Smith County, a nonprofit organization that has plans for a new skilled nursing and assisted living community just south of the new hospital.

The SunPorch campus is expected to include 40 skilled-nursing beds and 20 assisted-living apartments, following the so-called GreenHouse model, in which up to 10 residents live in each building.

In a 2016 interview Van Driel explained that the decision not to incorporate a new LTC unit or a new wellness center directly into the new hospital and clinic facility was made because of current Medicare reimbursement policies the penalize health care organizations for providing reimburseable and non-reimburseable services under the same roof. Both the LTC and the current Gardner Wellness Center at the existing hospital provide some services not covered by Medicare.

Like other rural community hospitals in Tribland, Smith County Memorial is a federally designated Critical Access Hospital. SCMH has been managed since its inception by Great Plains Health Alliance, a nonprofit health care management organization based in Phillipsburg, Kan.

The Aug. 5 grand opening will be a come-and-go event with refreshments prepared by Steve Smith, the new chef and registered dietitian hired by the hospital.

Van Driel, who has been with the Smith County hospital for five years, said the event will celebrate a job well done.

“I’ve been very impressed with the leadership from the (hospital) board of trustees and the team from Hutton Construction,” he said. “The group has really worked together seamlessly. In my career, I’ve been part of three hospital building projects and none have gone as smoothly as this one.”

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