RUGBY — The aging Heart of America medical facility is reaching the ends of its lifespan. The expense of maintaining much of the structure has disrupted the economic feasibility of the largest employer in the community.
“We’re paying upkeep on the old facility and upkeep is ridiculously expensive,” said Greg Jeffery, Heart of America. “Given the cost of maintaining that old structure, we’ve come to the conclusion that, for the long-term financial health and viability of the hospital, to build a new facility to better fit current needs.”
“Given the cost of maintaining that old structure, we’ve come to the conclusion that, for the long-term financial health and viability of the hospital, to build a new facility to better fit current needs.” Greg Jeffery, Heart of America
Heart of America has seen several additions covering a span of more than 60 years. It serves medical needs in the region between Minot on the west and Devils Lake to the east, each about 60 miles distant. A more modern facility would ensure continued service to area patients.
The proposed new facility is a medical park on the east side of the city, north of U.S. Highway 2. Original cost estimates were approximately $50 million. The North Dakota Legislature approved $1 million to help jump start a fundraising campaign for the purpose of meeting down payment on a loan for a new hospital complex.
“We’re going to launch the capitol campaign toward the end of March,” said Jeffery. “It looks like we’re going to set a goal of about $2.5 million. We’ve been meeting with area business people. They have been extremely supportive”
Admittedly, said Jeffery, raising $2.5 million dollars in a town the size of Rugby, population approximately 3,000, will be challenging. However, the importance of Heart of America to the community and surrounding area is well known, a factor that should benefit fundraising once the campaign gets underway.
“If that facility were to go away at some point in the future, it would be a major detriment to the overall financial health of the entire city.” Jeffery
“Everybody knows Heart of America is the biggest employer in town with 200 full-time and about 100 part-time employees,” said Jeffery. “If that facility were to go away at some point in the future, it would be a major detriment to the overall financial health of the entire city.”
As a prelude to fundraising, Jeffery and others have been meeting with people to answer questions about what the future holds for Heart of America, including the repurposing of the existing facility should the fundraising effort prove successful.
“We hope to have some direction, something promising to do with that facility,” explained Jeffery. “The older parts from the 40s and 60s may need to be razed, demolished. There may be some alternative uses for other parts.”
The existing Heart of America building is 140,000 square feet.
“What will become of the old facility? What are we going to do with that?” asked Jeffery.
Needs already identified from community input include repurposing the building for a day care center and affordable housing. Although such ideas are in the infancy stages, the financial feasibility is already being examined by a newly formed Campus Redevelopment Committee.