Busting At the seams- CMC Board approves $8 million expansion

By Jason Schock
Community Medical Center in Falls City recently celebrated just its sixth birthday, yet it has already outgrown 68,000 square feet of living space.
CMC’s Board of Directors recently gave its stamp of approval on a multi-million dollar upgrade that will include a new Family Medicine Clinic, additional surgery space, imaging enhancements, and renovations designed to improve the hospital’s orthopedic and specialty clinics. Ground will break next spring, CMC Administrator Ryan Larsen said.
“We spent a lot of time evaluating whether new construction was needed and what our focus areas should be,” he said. “We just moved into our building six years ago, and this was not something we wanted to rush into, but we’ve had enough growth that we need to expand. This will also give us the space to ensure we have room for the doctors and practitioners our community needs.”
The CMC Board approved a project budget of $8 million, about two-thirds of which will be spent on construction. Omaha-based Altus Architectural Studios has been hired to design the project and a committee comprised of board members, hospital administration, medical staff and other community members will later this month select a construction management firm.
The $21 million facility opened in November 2009 with 160 employees. That number has grown to 200.
According to the administrator, the clinic addition will be designed to accommodate additional practitioners moving into the community. Dr. Justin Westengaard will begin his practice at Family Medicine next spring or summer. The recently graduated family physician is a native of Red Cloud and earned his bachelor’s degree from Hastings College. He took pre-med at Kearney before graduating to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He’s currently in his final year of residency at a family clinic in Kearney.
The existing clinic was created to handle three to five primary care physicians. With the addition of MidAmerican Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and the anticipated arrival of Dr. Westengaard and other docs in coming years, demand is exceeding available space. The new Family Medicine Clinic and orthopedics will be housed separately, and a new entrance to the physical therapy room will be constructed, as well.
The surgical expansion is driven by an ever-growing demand for orthopedic procedures. Such procedures, incidentally, are driving a healthy bottom line. At the annual meeting last spring, Larsen reported 2014 gross revenues at more than $23 million, against $22 million in expenses. The hospital brought in some $5 million more in ‘14 than it did in 2011, and for three consecutive years it has operated with net annual gains of about $1.5 million each fiscal year.
    All news, it seems, is good news surrounding CMC these days.     
    Last spring, based on customer service, the hospital earned a perfect Five Star Quality Rating for 2014, one of just eight Nebraska facilities to do so. An estimated seven percent of the 5,000 or so hospitals in the U.S. are members of the exclusive “Five Star Club.”
    “By and large, we seem to be doing pretty well,” Larsen said. “And I appreciate that our patients say so.
    “We’re very grateful to the patients and also our staff. It’s really their efforts – they create the environment and have a real love for the people.”
    And that environment will only get bigger and better. “We built a nice surgical department around our traditional surgery needs,” Larsen said, “but while we built surgical rooms that could handle orthopedic cases, the department must be expanded if we want to function as a true orthopedic center. We need an additional surgical room and much more space to process, sterilize and store the large amount of specialized items involved in orthopedic cases. This is in addition to the other cases we will continue to do, such as obstetrics, gynecology, ear/nose/throat, cataracts, other ophthalmology, podiatry, gastroenterology and epidural pain relief treatments.”

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