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Groundbreaking at Larned Hospital

Groundbreaking set for Larned hospital

By KALEY CONNER Hays Daily News

LARNED -- It's what several people here and in Hays are calling a "success story."

This community of about 4,000 was faced with losing its hospital in June 2009.

Two years later, residents are taking advantage of expanded health services and soon will celebrate the groundbreaking of a new hospital building.

"Seldom do you see a hospital not only survive, but thrive, after an announcement they were going to shut a hospital down," said Shae Veach, vice president of regional operations at Hays Medical Center. "It goes to show the attitude and the inspiration by the people of Pawnee County. They're dedicated to making sure this happens, and so are we."

Hays Medical Center assumed operations of the critical access hospital March 1, 2010, after Catholic Health Initiatives announced plans to close the facility and allow the critical access designation to lapse.

The hospital, now known as Pawnee Valley Community Hospital, soon will see another significant change. Groundbreaking for a new 51,000-square-foot facility will be at 1 p.m. Sunday in Larned.

The building and all of the equipment is owned by Pawnee County. Hays Med handles daily operations and management.

The nearly $18.3 million project will be funded by a total of six mills and a 1-percent sales tax increase approved by Pawnee County voters.

The new facility will be built in the current location following a partial demolition. Operations will continue in an existing three-story wing until construction is complete.

"All services will be completely maintained throughout this whole process," Veach said.

It's hoped the new hospital will be finished in spring 2013, said Matt Heyn, chief executive officer and administrator of the Larned hospital.

The hospital will offer 23 patient rooms and more privacy in the emergency department. Emergency patient areas currently are separated only by curtains, Heyn said.

Another new feature will be an on-site helicopter pad for emergency transports. Patients being air-lifted from Larned are taken to the Larned-Pawnee County Airport.

"Minutes are very valuable with our critical-care patients, and having to transport them across town to the airport is less than ideal," Heyn said.

The building will be smaller than the original St. Joseph Memorial Hospital, which was constructed in the 1950s. That largely is due to continuing growth of outpatient services, he said.

Several services offered in mobile medical trailers, such as CT scans, will be moved inside the building.

The original building was in need of serious repair, costing nearly a quarter of a million dollars annually in maintenance, Heyn said.

Since Hays Med took over management, the hospital -- which previously offered basic inpatient and emergency care -- has grown to include lab, therapy and imaging services. Some minor surgical procedures now are performed in-house.

The hospital's gross revenue also has skyrocketed from about $600,000 monthly to about $1.8 million, he said.

"They've been deprived of health care in this community for years, since probably the '80s," Heyn said of area residents. "They are just ecstatic about the progression that's taken place in health care, the positive buzz and positive momentum health care has brought to Pawnee County."

Community organizers in Larned initially approached Hays Med for help when faced with losing health services, Veach said. Managing a hospital in another community is a first for Hays Med, and also is relatively rare throughout the state, he said.

"We're always willing to help wherever we can. We've learned a lot," Veach said. "Potentially in the future, it could be a model that works throughout the whole system, throughout all of Kansas."