NEW ULM - New Ulm Medical Center's business has been growing the past few years, with more doctors and practitioners, and more patients being seen than ever.
With the number of patients growing every year, the NUMC Clinic is running out of space, said NUMC President Toby Freier. So this year NUMC is adding space, lots of it. A $5.3 million expansion project, scheduled to begin this spring, will add about 12,000 square feet of space, about half again as much as the clinic now has available.
The clinic is currently set up in two sections of exam rooms, flanking the registration desk. The new expansion will add a third section of rooms, to be built onto the front of the clinic, extending out into what is now the parking lot.
This color sketch from the Perkins + Will architect firm depicts how the new New Ulm Medical Center clinic expansion will look after its completion.
Freier said the construction on the expansion itself will be preceded by the creation of new parking space, to the left of the clinic building as one faces it, in a low-lying grassy area north of RealLife Cooperative. The parking area will be for clinic employees eventually, but will give space for heavy equipment during the construction phase.
Completion of the clinic is expected by Dec. 31, Freier said.
The expansion project is the latest in a series of expansions completed in the past few years, and still going on. The latest is the expansion of the hospital's birthing center, which is still under construction.
Unlike past projects, which involved remodeling and expanding existing space, the clinic expansion is adding new space. That will result in much less disruption of clinic operations.
"With other projects, like the surgery center expansion, we'd have to do it in phases," said Freier. "We would have to finish one phase before we could start on the next phase, because we were still using that area."
Now, construction crews will be able to work on a separate structure without worrking around patients or doctors.
The new expansion is being built with a foundation that will allow for the addition of two extra floors in the future.
"This will allow us to go up with future expansions," said Freier. The NUMC campus is running out of space for expansions. There had been consideration of building the new expansion into the side of the hill next to the clinic, but the cost and engineering problems were prohibitive.
Allina footing the bill
In past expansion projects, Allina Health, owner of the New Ulm Medical Center, has conducted community-wide capital campaigns to help fund a portion of the project. This time, Allina will be covering the whole cost.
"It was something we felt needed to get it done, and done now," said Freier. "And we had the funds in our capital budget."
Freier provided statistics showing the growth of the clinic's patient use in recent years. In 2010, the clinic had 75,783 provider visits. That rose to 85,464 visits in 2012, and the clinic is projecting 94,000 visits this year.
These visits are growing as a result of the expansion of the clinic's medical staff. A couple of years ago the clinic realized it didn't have as many physicians and mid-level practitioners like nursing assistants and physician assistants. NUMC went on an aggressive recruiting effort that added 10 practitioners in the last 15 months, including several doctors from the region who brought their practices with them. Freier said there are more patients than ever coming from 40 or 50 miles away to New Ulm.
With more physicians, and more patients, it has put a strain on the existing examination areas.
The new expansion will include 28 exam rooms and support space, enough for nine new physicians and practitioners.
The clinic will also be adding a drive up pharmacy window, allowing patients to leave the clinic with their prescriptions. A store for pesonal medical equipment like canes and crutches will also be added, so people can leave the clinic and not have to drive around town to find the equipment they need.
Perkins + Will is the architect for the project. The general contractor is McGough Construction in Minneapolis.