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Perham Health: Hospital board moves forward with proposed $3.5 million clinic expansion

At the time of its construction, Perham Health was the biggest project in Perham history, with a $38 million price tag. The 120,000-square-foot facility opened its doors in January 2012. Perham Focus File Photo

A proposed $3.5 million, 8,800-square-foot expansion of the Perham Health Clinic is moving forward thanks to the board of directors approval on Jan. 31 in Perham.

The 120,000 square-foot hospital/clinic was completed in January 2012 with room for expansion. According to hospital officials, that clinic and optional expansion within the building were filled to capacity almost immediately after staff moved into the building. With continued growth in staff, the hospital put together a building committee last fall and decided an expansion was the best move to provide for current and future growth, according to Perham Health CEO Chuck Hofius.

"We opened the hospital six years ago," Hofius said. The building opened with space for current and future providers, "thinking we would have room for 10 years of growth. But we ran out of space."

So much so that the latest provider added to the clinic now has no space at all, and they have to jump around depending on the day that someone else may be out of the office.

"It's a good problem to have," Hofius said of the growth. He described the mid 1980s as a time of crisis for Perham Health, but he said in the 20 years he has been involved, the hospital/clinic have been making great strides. He has seen the list of providers grow from 5 to 23.

And almost all offices have been converted into double offices, not necessarily a bad thing, according to Beth Ulschmid, director of clinic operations. In many cases having a doctor and nurse sharing a space can provide for good collaboration, Ulschmid said. But they have even run out of room for double offices, she said.

Ulschmid said the practice has changed significantly since the building opened six years ago. There is more outreach and more options, all of which takes space.

Perham Health board chair Terry Marthaler agreed that it's a project that needs to happen and it's a project that shows Perham Health is doing well.

"Since opening the new facility we have added several new providers and grown much faster than we anticipated," Marthaler said. "After looking at several options the board decided that a clinic expansion would be best. At the annual hospital district meeting the board voted to move forward with the first phase of the project including the construction drawings and bid process. The final decision to move forward will be made once the bids are in."

The expansion would add about 21 additional exam rooms. The majority of women's health providers will be housed in the new space for synergy and networking opportunities, according to clinic officials. The addition will take approximately half the current clinic parking lot. A new parking lot will be built across the Emergency Department drive. A smaller, new parking lot will be built between the clinic and the Emergency Department.

Ulschmid looked forward to having additional offices so when she is trying to get a new provider to the clinic, she can show them the space that could be theirs to use. It can be a harder sell when there is no vacancy. She also likes that the expansion plan includes moving the scheduling to the same area as the doctor so after a patient sees the doctor, they can step right into scheduling follow-up appointments. It's a step towards making things easier for the patient and provider.

With the unanimous approval by the board last week, hospital officials are now able to seek bids for the estimated $3.5 million project. Hofius said the board approved a schematic of a nursing home remodel and gave approval of clinic expansion drawings. While the nursing home will undergo standard updates, the expansion is a whole new addition to the clinic building.

The drawings show the expansion will be in the direction of the new high school.

About $3 million of the cost is the construction with another $500,000 expected for furniture and fixtures within this space.

Officials hope to be accepting bids in April, hopefully coming to the board at the end of April with a bid that comes within the expected budget, possibly breaking ground in May and perhaps even have the project completed 10 months later, or next spring.