Avera Brady expansion ‘will have positive impact for residents, families and staff for years to come’
$3.5 million project adds hospice suites, additional private rooms
MITCHELL — It’s been a long year of construction, resident relocation and anticipation.
But expansion at Avera Brady Health and Rehabilitation was nearing completion Thursday afternoon, as Avera Health officials, residents, staff and community members gathered at the facility for a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating a $3.5 million project.
“What does this project mean for the people we serve?” asked Doug Ekeren, regional president and CEO of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital during the ceremony. “It means residents will have a more modern living environment, with inviting space to visit with loved ones. It means therapy patients will have easier access and more room in which to receive services. It means hospice patients and their loved ones will have comfortable and peaceful suites when end-of-life care is needed.”
The ribbon cutting marked the ceremonial end to a project that began with ground breaking almost a year ago to the day, though the project plans began long before that with hopes for updating resident rooms at the senior living facility, as well as improving hospice capabilities and enhancing the social environment for residents and visiting family members alike.
The project required extensive work to the Brook Lane, Harmony and Rehab neighborhoods within the facility. Nursing stations were relocated and adjusted to better accommodate visitors and residents, hallways were redone with new paint, carpet and handrails and new windows and doors were installed in resident rooms.
Areas previously used for therapy were converted to private resident rooms, and updated heating and cooling systems were installed. Plumbing and electrical infrastructure were updated.
Some of the work updated portions of the building that were built in 1960.
Ekeren credited the Avera Foundation with being a critical partner. The foundation committed $1 million to the effort and has also worked to raise an additional $500,000 to supplement the work. He said the foundation is nearing that goal.
Ekeren said residents, staff and family were consulted about the improvements, and noted that adding private resident rooms and hospice suites were a priority, but so was general modernization with the growing need for space and advanced medical equipment.
“We wanted to modernize the rooms as well. When this was built, they weren’t thinking of the medical equipment design, because they didn’t need them at that time. We do now. We had to take modernization into consideration,” Ekeren said.
The expansion gives the facility 54 private rooms and 15 double rooms for a capacity of 84 beds. Many resident rooms have been upgraded with new furniture, cabinetry and other appointments.
The project also included a 4,400-square-foot addition that includes a new therapy suite and two hospice suites.
A new corner therapy room was added that includes two walls of windows to let in natural light and expanded the space for therapy work by as much as a factor of five. The addition features easier access from the street so those discharged can return for outpatient therapy while continuing to work with the same therapists and equipment.
Becky Weich, an occupational therapist with Avera, said the space will make for a more pleasant therapy environment for patients. And with four residents and therapists often working at the same time, space is always at a premium, she said.
“We love it. We’re so excited. We’ve wanted this for a very long time,” Weich said. “We have five times more space, and the windows are awesome to have, and I think our residents will enjoy exercising a lot more.”
The two new hospice suites down the hall will provide a comforting setting for residents who are going through their last days and the families who hope to spend that time being a family as opposed to specialized caregivers. For both individuals who are already residents at Avera Brady or those who are receiving hospice care in their own homes, the suites allow for a seamless transition within the system.
“(It will allow) those folks who are nearing the end of their days here on earth to stay close to home and have as much of their family involved in those last few days as possible,” said Kelli Kommes, a clinical coordinator who oversees the hospice program at Avera Brady. “And it eases the burden of the caregiver role and lets them be family members.”
The suites include a spacious patient room directly adjoining another room with living and meeting space for family members, so they can be near to their loved one without having to worry about providing the medical care that professionals at Avera Brady specialize in.
Those last days should be spent together without having to focus on the specifics of medical care, Kommes said.
“It’s hard to be a caregiver and a family. You don’t get to grieve during that process. (It’s important) for us to be able to bring them in and provide the nursing care support and allow the family to be the family,” Kommes said.
The new addition portion of the project has undergone a preliminary inspection by the state, and final approval is expected in the coming weeks. After that, it will be time to bring in patients to take advantage of the new therapy spaces, the hospice suites and the renovated rooms.
The facility is, of course, designed to hold residents, Ekeren said, and the construction forced them to reduce those numbers while work was being done. Now it’s time to fill the rooms and halls again.
“We downsized our number of residents during the construction because we were always going to have one wing under construction. So now it is a matter of filling up our beds and getting back to capacity, but also making sure we have the staff to (tend to) those beds. So we’re on a dual track with recruiting more staff and being prepared for more residents coming in,” Ekeren said.
Julie Hoffmann, administrator for Avera Brady Health and Rehabilitation and vice president of patient care services for Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, was excited to have the project nearing completion and to open the doors to a future of quality care.
“It feels great. I’m very excited for the public to see it today and to be able to start admitting residents into our new space,” Hoffmann said. "This project will have a positive impact for residents, families and staff for years to come."
The ceremony Thursday is a proud moment for Avera Health, but it should also be a point of pride for the community at large, Ekeren said.
“We’re grateful for the outpouring of community support for the project. As the health care, and specifically the long-term-care world evolves, we depend on the support of our communities to meet the expectations of our residents, patients and families,” Ekeren said. “We simply cannot do this without them.”