Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Expansion in health, wellness

Ely hospital looks for partners in $24 million project

Keith Vandervort
Posted 1/9/19

ELY - Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital and the Ely Regional Community Complex formed a partnership at the beginning of the new year that could lead to the building of a 40,000 square-foot community …

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Expansion in health, wellness

Ely hospital looks for partners in $24 million project


ELY - Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital and the Ely Regional Community Complex formed a partnership at the beginning of the new year that could lead to the building of a 40,000 square-foot community facility comprised of wellness amenities and enhanced health programs and services.

EBCH Executive Director Michael Coyle told the Timberjay last week that the hospital signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the ERCC to develop a community initiative that will strive to meet the needs of residents. 

The partnership “perfectly aligns with the mission of our organizations and involves a true partnership with our community in meeting needs defined in our Community Health Needs Assessment, while providing additional resources and tools to encourage our community to live healthy lifestyles,” he said.

That mission appears to mesh well with the Ely Regional Community Complex, which is continuing to look for a home following the failure of the group and the Ely school board to reach an agreement on locating a facility on the school campus.

“We had several conversations with the ERCC officers and it seems like our missions are the same,” Coyle said.

Jeff Sundell, a principal founder of the regional complex effort, agreed. “This is an extremely exciting time for us all.  While there are many details to be worked out, our goal is to partner with community leaders such as Ely Bloomenson Community Hospital and others to provide for unmet healthcare needs of our community.  We have incredible momentum, including many prominent partners interested in joining this movement, and millions of dollars already pledged.  As we firm up these plans, we’ll be certain to keep our community informed, and to receive their ideas and input.”

“The ERCC wants to build a center for health and wellness, and to offer services for unmet needs that other businesses currently aren’t meeting,” Coyle said. “And that is exactly the philosophy that we have here. We have always been in the sick-care business. You come to us when you are sick. It takes a lot of money to fix that. Health care is changing. We want to get in the well-care business. We want to keep you well. We want to help you with preventative stuff.”

He compared the EBCH perspective to the ERCC perspective. “They seem to match pretty well,” he said. “We are doing a building project regardless. It makes sense if we can put our two buildings together and reduce a lot of the overhead costs.”

The two groups put together a memorandum of understanding to show good faith as they explore a combined facility, Coyle said.

The ERCC brings a $5 million grant to the table, along with an additional $1 million in matching funds for their project that could include a swimming pool, gymnasium, fitness center, daycare center and community rooms.

“They are looking for about 20,000 square feet and we are looking at about 20,000 square feet,” Coyle said. “Given the estimate of construction costs, we are looking at about $24 million for such a facility.” He acknowledged that no discussions have been held as of yet about what the building would look like or what would be in the building.

He said EBCH is also in discussions with the Ely Ambulance Service and any other partners who might want to be included in the project. “Our goal here is to do a project that benefits not only Ely, but Babbitt, Tower, Soudan, Embarrass, and Isabella. We want a project that draws people to us as a destination. We want a regional complex, a regional care center, a regional health and wellness center.”

Next steps

A regional architectural firm, Architectural Resources, Inc., of Hibbing, is conducting a 13-week “master building plan” process to develop building plans with a task force from EBCH and ERCC.

Similar to what ARI is currently conducting with ISD 696 and their building project, team leaders will be interviewed and infrastructure will be studied to develop a plan to move forward.

“We need to find out what we need to do, what should be in the building, what are some of the costs, and what it will look like,” he said. “We will have listening sessions, because we can’t put something together without listening to the community. We want valuable input.”

When asked why invest so much money in a small hospital, Coyle responded, “We are investing for the future. Even five years from now, we want this expansion project to set us up for many years. We want this to be a 20- to 25-year project. We want a comfortable, multi-use space that is patient-centered.”

Hospital growth

a factor

Following a year of healthy financial growth and the development of a strategic long-term growth plan, Coyle said hospital officials realized the Ely health facility is growing faster than they have space for. “We are finding out that people don’t want to have to travel for health services,” he said. “We want to keep people as close to Ely as possible, and knowing that, we need to create more space for those specialists to come here,” he said, to provide services like podiatry, cardiology, sedated dentistry, orthopedics, general surgery and others that would otherwise require patients to travel to Virginia, Hibbing or even Duluth.

Coyle said the hospital’s goal is to partner with medical specialists and providers. “We have to give them a space that is convenient for them and makes them want to come here,” he said. “We also want a space that is comfortable for the patient. We want (the space) to be highly professional, aesthetically pleasing and convenient to all of our other services like lab and X-ray departments.”

The new building will be connected to the west side of the existing hospital facility near the existing ambulance garage and physical therapy entrance, and will incorporate a new main entrance to the hospital.

One of the main partners for the new hospital addition will be the city of Ely. “The timing couldn’t be better for us,” he noted, “because the city is putting in a new trailhead and extending Fifth Avenue West, and our new hospital entrance will be on the new street. It is perfect timing.”

Coyle said a new entrance is needed to give EBCH an identity. “Right now, when you pull in, you are not sure where you’re at. Our front door looks like a side door,” he said. “Our goal is for you to pull in and know you are at ECBH. We will have people right there to greet you when you walk in the door, and volunteers to walk you to where you need to go on our campus.”

He attributed the increasing volume of outpatient services at EBCH as a main justification for the need for expansion. “We are counting more labs, X-rays, chemo-therapies, infusion-therapies, general surgeries to the point where we are bursting at the seams.”


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