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Crowds flock to Hospital's Open House

Marie Nitke/FOCUS The atrium of the new Perham Health facility impressed visitors on Sunday with its use of space and light, sparkling chandelier, copper and steel sculpture and water wall. Designers sought out local artists to help put the finishing touches on the new facility.

Perham Health opened its doors to the public for the first time on Sunday, welcoming swarms of community members to an Open House.

The new facility has been under construction since November 2009; it will be open to serve patients on Jan. 9.

Hundreds of people took self-guided walking tours through the new hospital and clinic, leaving no corner of the building's 120,000 square feet unturned.

The trek took awhile for those who wanted to explore the full facility; the tour included 15-plus departments, offices, shops and other specialized areas such as the sleep center, birthing center, meditation room and lab.

As visitors were told as they entered the building: "Feel free to see and touch everything!"

Hospital staffers were on hand to act as friendly greeters, and to answer any questions. Many "oohs" and "aahs" of appreciation could be overheard as people wandered the halls and rooms of the $38 million facility.

Featuring state-of-the-art amenities and a patient-centered design, the building was constructed in a sustainable, environmentally friendly fashion. The interior décor reflects this, with natural light, wood and water worked aesthetically into the layout.

"What a magnificent facility, added to an already magnificent community," remarked Perham Mayor Tim Meehl during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Open House. "It's truly remarkable. Makes me proud."

Other speakers at the ribbon cutting included representatives from Sanford Health, the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA), Congressman Collin Peterson, hospital administrators, and more.

Attendees also included principal architects and designers, current State Representatives Mark Murdoch, and Bud Nornes, former Representative Dean Simpson, former State Senator Dan Skogen, Perham-area community leaders and scores of others.

"Congratulations," said Joe Schindler of the MHA. "This is a great state-of-the-art facility... very high quality. A good healing environment."

Perham Health CEO Chuck Hofius remarked on the hospital's high level of patient satisfaction, and thanked the staff and physicians.

Hofius also thanked all the community donors, who contributed $3.5 million to the project - including KLN Enterprises, which gave a $1 million founding gift. Names of major donors can be found on a special dedication wall in the atrium; all others will be etched in stone in the Healing Garden.

"It's the people that really make this a magnificent place," Hofius said. He called the Open House "a pinnacle day for the history of Perham Health," and the facility's construction "a big undertaking; a bold move."

"This project would seem impossible to many communities, but impossible isn't a word we recognize in Perham," said Meehl.

The Perham hospital will celebrate its 110th anniversary next year. The Franciscan Sisters opened the original facility in 1902, tending to 189 patients that first year.

Since then, the hospital has seen its share of ups and downs.

St. James became Memorial Hospital in 1958, and the Memorial Nursing Home was later added in 1969, followed by Briarwood senior housing in 1998.

The hospital went through some tough financial times in the 1980s, until partnerships with St. Luke's and MeritCare (now called Sanford Health) turned the ailing system around. By 2001 the hospital was reporting all time high revenues.

Today, the hospital includes clinics in Perham, New York Mills and Ottertail. Recently renamed Perham Health, it serves more than 10,000 patients a year.