Big move for Avera: Campus envisioned at 30-acre site along I-90
Avera Queen of Peace has made plans to possibly move all of its Mitchell operations — including, someday, the hospital — to 30 acres of land west of Cabela’s along Interstate 90.
“This is really a long-term play,” said Avera Queen of Peace Regional President and CEO Tom Clark in an interview this week with The Daily Republic. “We want to see what might possibly go out there over time.”
In October 2012, Avera Queen of Peace bought a 30-acre parcel of land from the Mitchell Area Development Corp. for $1.6 million. Since purchasing the land, Avera Queen of Peace has developed a master plan that could mean a decadeslong consolidation of all of the organization’s services on a single campus, Clark said.
Currently, Avera Queen of Peace Hospital is located on North Foster Street in northeastern Mitchell, with many of its associated facilities scattered in various places across the city.
“We really felt like, long term, this isn’t someplace that Queen of Peace really should be, tucked back in the corner of town in a residential area,” Clark said.
If its operations were consolidated near the interstate, Avera Queen of Peace could offer easier access to services for patients and staff, and give the facility much greater visibility, Clark said. According to the South Dakota Department of Transportation, in 2012, the average daily count of vehicles passing by Mitchell on I-90 was 9,918. At that level, the yearly total vehicle count on I-90 at Mitchell would exceed 3.6 million.
“Over time, as that campus develops, I think it will really help make a great first impression for our community out along I-90,” Clark said.
The first step will be to build a three-story, 60,000-square-foot medical office building at the site. The cost, including equipment, furnishings and site work, will be between $15 million and $17 million, according to Clark.
“We are in desperate need of medical office space,” he said.
With a staff of between 650 and 700 full-time employees and additional part-timers, Avera is the largest employer in Mitchell. The focus at the new medical office building will be on Avera Queen of Peace’s primary care services. That includes internal medicine practices, family practices, pediatricians, occupational health services, urgent care and medical imaging.
“We would have all of our primary care concentrated in one space,” Clark said.
If a firm plan for the building can be put together by February and gets approval from the proper boards within the organization, construction of the new facility could begin as soon as next summer, Clark said. Construction, he added, will likely take between 12 and 15 months.
Beyond the plan to construct a new medical office building, Avera Queen of Peace will likely begin to move its outpatient services as its I-90 campus begins to develop in the coming decades, Clark said.
“The outpatient component, with additional physician office space, would probably be the next piece of the puzzle that makes sense,” he said.
According to Clark, at least 60 percent of Avera Queen of Peace’s business is now done on an outpatient basis. That means a majority of patients are treated without being admitted to a hospital.
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 35.1 million people were discharged from inpatient care at non-federal hospitals in the U.S. in 2010, while approximately 100.7 million people made outpatient hospital visits.
“It’s just a real transformation of our industry,” he said. “Everything revolved around the hospital, and now that’s really not the case.”
As the industry has changed, Avera Queen of Peace’s facilities have become increasingly inefficient for patients and staff. For example, Clark said, patients in need of physical therapy currently have to make their way to a lower level of the hospital for treatment, which he said can be inconvenient.
“By the time some of these people get to therapy, they’re already exhausted,” he said.
If, at some point, a replacement hospital needs to be built, Clark said, there will be room for such a facility on the I-90 campus. But there is no immediate need to replace the current hospital, Clark said.
“What is that time line? I don’t know,” he said.
Other facilities could eventually be built on the campus, Clark said, including a community wellness center and a replacement for Avera Brady Health and Rehab, an assisted-living facility currently located in western Mitchell.
“We have to be able to reinvest in our business if we want to continue to meet our mission of taking care of this community,” he said.
As Avera Queen of Peace develops its campus concept, it will continue to shift its focus from treating the sick to community wellness and handling complex, chronic patients, Clark said.
“It’s a fundamental shift from where we’ve been historically. Everybody is trying to figure out how to do that.”
The shift from treatment to prevention, Clark said, is largely the reason why many local doctors have elected to join Avera Medical Group. By connecting doctors, nurses and other staff — and eventually, all at one location — Avera Queen of Peace will be able to effectively manage all aspects of its patients’ health care.
“It’s more of a team approach to managing patients,” he said.
The campus, Clark said, will give Avera Queen of Peace the ability to operate efficiently as the health care industry continues to change.
“It’s about reinventing ourselves so we can perform and survive in a new environment,” he said.