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Echo Press photo by Celeste Beam Looking down from the second floor, guests and visitors at the Douglas County Hospital can view the new lobby area, which includes a reception desk and waiting area in an open atmosphere.

The hospital expands: DCH to showcase $31 million addition

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A multi-million dollar project that began in 2008 has come to fruition and the people of Douglas County and beyond will reap in its benefits.

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This Sunday, the Douglas County Hospital (DCH) will host an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. to showcase its newest addition - a three-story, 110,000-square-foot facility that houses new private patient rooms, a new orthopedic clinic, new birth center and more.

It's an addition that makes Bill Flaig, DCH's administrator, happy and proud.

He's most proud because city and county taxpayers won't have to pay for the $31 million project.

Before embarking on the expansion, the hospital conducted a financial impact analysis to determine the best way to finance the project, said Flaig.

As a result, a combination of cash reserves and $26 million in tax-exempt bonds were used to finance the project. Flaig noted that the tax-exempt bonds are revenue bonds, not general obligation bonds, which will be paid off with hospital revenues, not local tax dollars.

"We proud of that fact," he said.

Flaig added that the orthopedic surgeons will pay for their clinic space with a long-term lease between the clinic and the hospital.

Back in the early 1970s - when Our Lady of Mercy Hospital and DCH merged - there were 17 doctors. Now, the hospital has 74 doctors on staff, including several specialty doctors.

Over the years, the hospital has seen a few changes. In 1981, for example, Douglas County voters approved a $6 million bond issue for additional hospital beds and expansion of X-ray, surgery and outpatient facilities.

In 1994, the hospital built a new emergency department and main entrance lobby. Because of these additions, DCH was established as a regional emergency/trauma center that was staffed with physicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The cost for this addition was $2.5 million, which was paid for out of a fund set aside for hospital expansion.

Then, just four years later, in 1998, a new state-of-the-art radiation oncology unit was constructed, which Flaig said offered residents in Alexandria and surrounding areas a much-needed service.

Two short years later, the hospital expanded again. In 2000, the hospital board approved the construction of an 18,500-square-foot surgery center on the Broadway side of the hospital. The cost of the surgery center was $7 million, which was paid for out of funds set aside for this construction project.

Over the next few years, the hospital began a hospitalist program; entered into a collaborative agreement for imaging services with Alexandria Clinic, Heartland Orthopedic Specialists, Broadway Medical Center and Center for Diagnostic Imaging; recruited a medical oncologist; and opened a medical oncology unit.

With all the changes over the course of many years, the radiation and oncology departments within the hospital, along with the kidney dialysis department, are two of the projects that stand out in Flaig's mind.

"They are really important and impact a lot of people," he said. He added that kidney dialysis was started in 1988.

Flaig, who began his career with DCH in 1973 as the assistant administrator, became the hospital administrator in 1983.

He is looking forward to the opening of the newest part of the DCH facility, which he noted includes 22 private patient rooms on the second floor and 32 private patient rooms on the third floor.

"Private rooms, that's what people want," he said. "Private rooms are more conducive to a better healing environment."

With the newly expanded hospital space, all patient rooms, including those in the existing building, will now be private hospital rooms, said Flaig. There will be no more sharing with another patient.

Besides private rooms, there is now a new birth center at DCH.

Flaig noted that the birth center currently located in the existing building will be remodeled into an expanded kidney dialysis department. That department will go from having 1,500 square feet to having 5,000 square feet. It currently can accommodate seven patients, but once the remodel is done, there will be space to accommodate 13 kidney dialysis patients.

Health care is a growing business in Douglas County, said Flaig, noting that DCH has grown to be a regional center with 40 percent of its patients coming from outside the Douglas County area.

"The future looks good as our medical community continues to grow and expand along with Douglas County and the surrounding area," said Flaig.

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