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Mitchell Mayor Ken Tracy, left, picks up his hard hat as, from left, Terry Torgerson, board director of Avera Queen of Peace, Benedictine sister Kathleen Crowley, Regional President and CEO Tom Clark and Dr. Patricia Malters get ready to break ground Tuesday at the Grassland Health Campus, which will house many of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital's specialized services at a new location. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

Avera Queen of Peace breaks ground on new building

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Avera Queen of Peace breaks ground on new building
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

With a few scoops of gold-plated shovels, Avera Queen of Peace's new future in Mitchell officially began Tuesday.

Under a large tent to protect the roughly 150 attendees from Tuesday's persistent rain, the ceremonial speeches and hard hats marked a new era of health care in Mitchell, with the groundbreaking proceedings at the Grassland Health Campus located along Cabela Drive and within the rumble of Interstate 90. Construction will soon start on a new, 70,000 square-foot medical office building, which will house many of Avera's specialized services at a new location. It will eventually be the home to Avera Queen of Peace Hospital itself if Avera's long-term plan comes to fruition.

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The project will cost $16.5 million and is expected to open in early 2016. Construction at the site is slated to begin later this month, according to Avera Queen of Peace President and CEO Tom Clark.

"It's just really an amazing project for the whole organization," Clark said in an interview with The Daily Republic. "Very few health care entities get to build something from scratch and we're just really excited about the opportunities we're going to have here."

Dusty Johnson, the chief of staff for Gov. Dennis Daugaard, said the new facility will mark both Avera Queen of Peace's progress and the longevity of the hospital system, dating back to the late 1800s.

"For more than 100 years, the people of those communities and the people of this state have been cared for because of the incredible faith and service of those orders and partners with whom they have worked," Johnson said.

Mitchell Mayor Ken Tracy said it was an exciting day for the community and another mark of the city's growth.

"Avera Queen of Peace has a rich history in Mitchell and always has taken progressive steps to make local health care the best it can be," he told the crowd. "We are excited to celebrate your new growth, first with a new medical office building, and someday, a new home for our local hospital campus."

Patricia Malters, who practices internal medicine at Avera Queen of Peace, said she's looking forward to the new project. In 28 years of practicing in Mitchell, she's seen the number of physicians double from 25 to 50, and said the hospital has outgrown its facility in northeast Mitchell.

"Most of us are working in buildings that are at least 30 years old, which doesn't sound that old, but patient flow is poor, there's very little privacy, there's very little efficiency and most of these buildings aren't wired well for technology," she said.

That will change at the new place. Clark said the building will have smaller waiting rooms and instead patients will be taken to the room where they will be treated, and a doctor will meet them there, a process called self-rooming. He said that patients ideally would not need to wait in a traditional waiting room unless every room happened to be full.

"It will be a great fit, and it will be a better situation for patients. It will give them a tremendous amount of privacy, as opposed to being in a waiting room with 15 to 20 people you may or may not know," said Malters, who helped consult on the design.

Clark said the new office building -- which will house family practice, home medical equipment, internal medicine, laboratory, occupational health, pediatrics, radiology and urgent care -- will fill both short- and long-term needs.

"We have immediate needs now," Clark said. "We have physicians and we have nowhere to put them, so there is a physical need for this building, but it will also give us the right foot forward into the future and will set the tone with this development."

"To be a part of a really cool building, everyone just feels like they're getting pumped with a little extra adrenaline and excitement," Malters said.

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