Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors  expanding

Administrators at Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors have announced an expansion that would connect the hospital and medical clinic into one contiguous campus.

Lake View is a wholly owned subsidiary of St. Luke’s, and even though it is part of the same health care system, Greg Ruberg, president/CEO of Lake View Hospital and vice president of St. Luke’s, explained the campus has a unique identity and some decision-making latitude.

“We are owned by St. Luke’s, but they are a strong supporter of rural health care, and with our own board of directors made up of community members from Two Harbors and Silver Bay, we are able to give input into decisions,” Ruberg said.

The expansion would span the gap between the current hospital and clinic, eliminating about 45 parking spaces. The two-floor expansion will have one main entry for outpatient services, a 2,000 square-foot public meeting space, a lab and specialty clinic.

“We are responding to what patients are asking for, and this was the next step to continue to grow and better serve our patients in our community instead of them having to travel to Duluth,” Ruberg said.

This first phase of facility improvements has a $15 million price tag and is anticipated to be completed by the fall of 2019. Phase two of the plan will be moving surgical and procedure operations into the second floor of the newly constructed area as soon as it is completed. A third phase of expansion is still undefined and under discussion.

A plan for the expansion was developed with input from patient, family and staff advisory committees and information gathered from tours to hospitals around the state. Starting a master facility plan about two years ago, Lake View began working with BWBR Architects from St. Paul.

“We talked with the architect about what our future should look like and identified our needs for more services, and it’s perfect timing because we have limited space for providing the services we’d like to grow,” Ruberg said.

Since he moved into the role as president/CEO of Lake View in 2014, he noted a laser focus has been applied to creating a change of culture that was maximally optimized for excellence in patient care. Expanded services giving patients a greater choice in the gender and age of providers has also been key.

“Back in 2014 we wanted to change the culture at Lake View to 100 percent focused on the patient,” he said. “We wanted the right leadership team in place that had the drive to make sure all the right employees were in the right positions, and who realized you have to treat employees right to treat the patient right. We have that dedicated team now, and we’ve been able to fix a lot of things.”

That cultural sea change has partly come about through responsiveness to patient feedback, and has led to continued momentum for growth. Now, Ruberg said, people are asking to work at Lake View, instead of it struggling to fill positions.

In the last four years a number of specialists have been added to the roster for clinic and surgical procedures, including urology, podiatry, gastroenterology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and an anesthesiologist performing interventional pain procedures. Two more general practitioners have signed on to begin in 2019, and Ruberg said more specialties are in the works for the coming year.

A specialty care clinic will be on the main level of the addition, as well as an integrated lab combining the now separate hospital and clinic labs for greater efficiency. Centralized registration will be added in the new space, an expanded inpatient pharmacy, along with infusion therapy for services like chemotherapy or treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. The community space will be another addition to the main floor.

“The community space is exciting for the model of health and wellness, not just medical services where we can provide public education, classes on exercise for managing chronic conditions, and allowing us to be a better community partner,” Ruberg said.

Maintaining a separate entry for the emergency department, the expansion will allow patients to be transferred from the outpatient clinic to the hospital as needed without going outside.

Kraus-Anderson project manager Mike Dosan said one major challenge for his crew will be dealing with the seven-foot elevation difference between buildings, however, he is confident the architect has the necessary solutions.

“There is a challenge with the elevation change to dig down, make sure everything lines up, and some structural challenges as you marry the two structures together,” Dosan said.

BWBR was the architect on the job for the last major renovation project at the hospital, so plans are in place for incorporating facade materials and elements to make the completed structure aesthetically harmonious. 

Pre-construction planning is a philosophy that Kraus-Anderson implements to avoid the infamy of over-run budgets and delays construction projects are all too often vulnerable to.

“Long before the shovel hits the ground in the spring we will understand the expectations of our client and have worked out budget and timing issues to make sure there is a successful outcome,” Dosan said.

Construction is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2019 and is expected to last for about 16 months.