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Dave Olson, Published March 16 2014

Expanding Essentia: Health center addition aims for early 2015 opening

FARGO – The $50 million in construction work going on at Essentia Health in Fargo has required some adapting on the part of hospital workers and patients alike.

To free up more patient parking as part of a large addition being added to Essentia’s hospital on 32nd Avenue South, two employee lots containing hundreds of parking spaces were created a block or two to the west of the hospital.

While the distance from the hospital may not be that great, workers have dubbed the lots Montana and Wyoming, said Kris Santjer, marketing planner with Essentia.

She added that as construction workers toil to connect 130,000 square feet of new space to the hospital, staff members are doing a good job of keeping disruptions to a minimum.

“The teams have been fantastic coordinating and making sure patients aren’t impacted by what we’re doing,” Santjer said.

What Essentia is doing is erecting a four-story addition to the back of the six-story hospital and a two-story bump-out on a front corner of the building.

The new spaces will house a number of things, including:

  • A new emergency room area.

  • A new ambulance garage.

  • 28 new intensive-care rooms.

  • An additional MRI machine and an additional CT scanner.

    New equipment and upgrades will cost Essentia about $10 million, according to Bob Bakkum, senior director of administrative services at Essentia, who said the company’s expansion work extends beyond the 32nd Avenue facility.

    He said construction is nearing completion on a 30,000-square-foot materials supply, distribution and support center located several blocks from the hospital.

    Once that is ready, about 110 employees from Essentia’s facility on South University Drive in Fargo will be moved to the support center, according to Bakkum.

    When that move is completed, the South University building will be remodeled to expand family practice and physical therapy services, Bakkum said.

    In addition, he said, the building’s cancer center is getting a new $4.5 million linear accelerator, a device used to treat cancer.

    Bakkum said the harsh winter caused the loss of about 20 construction days for the expansion project on 32nd Avenue, and he said that will make it a challenge to meet a goal of opening the new addition by early next year.

    “We’re still targeting to move in and open for patients in January of 2015,” Bakkum said.

    Once the hospital addition is completed, additional work will include reconfiguring the hospital’s registration area.

    When that happens, the current registration area will be replaced with a retail pharmacy, something the hospital currently does not have.

    In addition to the work going on above ground, the hospital’s underground space also will grow, with plans calling for expanded kitchen and dining room spaces.

    Bakkum said the hospital project is going well overall, though he likened the situation to remodeling a home kitchen and carrying on a dinner party every night the remodeling is taking place.

    “That’s about what it’s like,” he said.

    Readers can reach Forum reporter

    Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555