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New hospital era dawns

Al Edenloff | Echo Press Hospital board members in the ribbon-cutting ceremony included (front, left to right) Neil Gillis, Bev Bales and Dian Lopez; (back row, left to right) Dan Olson, Gerald Johnson, Karl Bloomquist, Norm Salto, Bill Flaig (administrator) and Dave Kjos.

"Wow, what a day! What a facility! And just wait until you get inside."

Those words from Douglas County Hospital Administrator Bill Flaig minutes before a ribbon-cutting ceremony opened Sunday's celebration of the hospital's $31 million expansion.

Speaking in front of a crowd of hundreds who were eager to check out the new facility, Flaig thanked everyone who was involved in the project - the hospital board, the workers and the community, which offered strong support, Flaig said.

Flaig said that when the planning process began for the addition four or five years ago, the hospital considered taking a Walmart approach by building a new hospital in the existing parking lot and then tearing down the existing hospital. But that strategy would have inflated the cost to about $145 million, he said.

The expansion, however, is a lot like having a new hospital, Flaig added. He said it will meet the healthcare needs of the region for the next 40 years.

Flaig highlighted the improvements - 120 new parking spots (with room to expand into the tennis court area), a new lobby, new gift shop, new elevators, Heartland Orthopedic Specialists on the first level, a new medical/surgery area on the second floor, private rooms for all patients, and a new state-of-the-art birth center on the third floor.

Other community leaders took turns at the podium.

Alexandria Mayor Dan Ness read a proclamation designating October 10, 2010 as Douglas County Hospital Day. He noted that the hospital uses no local or county tax subsidies and provides more than 600 jobs.

Douglas County Commissioner Bev Bales proclaimed the entire month of October 2010 as Douglas County Hospital Month. She noted that facility, which began as a 50-bed hospital in 1955 has completed expansion projects every decade since then and continues to meet the health needs of the area. She added that the hospital was twice named as one of the top 100 hospitals in the nation.

David Kjos, on behalf of the DCH board of directors, offered congratulations to all those involved in the project. He noted that the hospital has grown from having 17 doctors to 74 today and has been able to pay for its growth without using taxpayer dollars. "This hospital is funding itself," he said.

Kjos then sprang a surprise on Flaig, informing him that the new facility was being named in his honor as "The William Flaig Addition."

Flaig, who is retiring next August after more than 37 years of service - 27 as administrator - said it's been his privilege and pleasure to serve. He added that he was humbly appreciative of having the hospital's addition carry his name.

After the ribbon was cut, a steady stream of 2,500 people made their way into the new facility.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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