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Published March 12, 2014, 09:55 AM

Altru specialty center will act as new hospital for GF

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Altru Health System gave a first glimpse of a new hospital facility Tuesday in Grand Forks’ south end, one that some health officials said may be a “game-changer” for orthopedic care.

By: Jennifer Johnson, Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Altru Health System gave a first glimpse of a new hospital facility Tuesday in Grand Forks’ south end, one that some health officials said may be a “game-changer” for orthopedic care.

The Altru Specialty Center, located within its south campus on South Washington Street, will be dedicated to elective orthopedic and podiatry surgeries.

“It’s the only hospital of its kind in eastern North Dakota, perhaps all of North Dakota, to have single specialty care focused on orthopedic patients,” said Joffrey Thompson, a doctor at Valley Bone and Joint Clinic and one of several health officials who spoke that day.

Complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and public tours, the day was a big one for Altru. The event was significant since it marked the first time a hospital has opened in the city since 1976, according to the hospital system.

It’s also a key part of a major expansion expected to continue for the next several years. Hospital officials have said unprecedented growth in the company and outdated facilities drove the expansion, which began in 2012 and includes the hospital, a clinic, an imagining center and strip mall that make up the medical park.

Getting to goals

The new hospital includes four operating rooms, 45 private rooms for surgeries, a Joint Replacement Center and in-patient rehabilitation.

Altru plans to relocate rehabilitative center patients beginning March 25 and orthopedic patients the following week.

One main benefit of the new hospital is individual beds for patients, which not only give desired privacy but also reduce wait times. About half of the rooms will be dedicated to the Joint Replacement Center and orthopedic procedures, with some containing larger beds and wider doors for bariatric patients, according to Altru.

Other highlights include upgraded equipment and a hands-free support system in the physical therapy room for patients who have ambulatory needs, a first for the hospital.

CEO Dave Molmen said completing this hospital enables other renovations on the South Columbia Road campus. That will take place later this year and expand patient care services and the surgery program, he said.

“We’ll have additional capacity now as this capacity moves to south Grand Forks,” he said.

Altru’s initial announcement of the $200 million renovation project, was accompanied by criticism of its purchase of the facility, where a potential competitor was preparing to open a for-profit hospital.

Asked if Altru’s commitment to the renovation contributed to a financial deficit in the past year, Molmen said no.

“Across the nation, there have been a lot of changes and a lot of challenges with financing health care,” he said. “That’s a global phenomenon and not just something we’ve been dealing with here at Altru.”

The work they’ve been doing has also allowed the hospital system to grow faster, he said. In nearly two years, the center has added about 30 new physicians, as well as created a sleep lab, clinics for family medicine and gastroenterology, several labs, imaging services and an interventional pain management clinic, he said.

Molmen said overall renovation has been progressing as they’ve wanted.

“Every few months, we’ve been putting out something or bringing something online,” he said.

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