Sakakawea Medical Center

Hazen hospital steps into a new century

Dec 29, 2016 | Tags: construction, bismarck tribune

HAZEN — In about two months, Hazen’s medical team will walk 50 feet into a new century of health care.

This article was originally published on The Bismarck Tribune December 22nd, 2016 and can be viewed here.

Sakakawea Medical Center CEO Darrold Bertsch stands in front of the new hospital-clinic facility that will open for operations toward the end of February. The opening is further out than planned, but he promises the facility will be well worth the wait.

A $30 million combined hospital‐clinic‐therapy‐emergency care facility is inching forward, behind schedule, but the finish line is, oh, so tantalizingly close.

When it’s done and open for use tentatively by the end of February, a building design that lights up every corner with ambient sunshine will make going to the doctor almost a pleasure.

Sakakawea Medical Center director Darrold Bertsch still gets a kick out of walking into it, even though he’s had a front‐row seat to construction and countless walk‐throughs since work started in October 2015.

The facility’s main design feature is an open gallery concept that extends the width of the building starting at the front door.

This is what sold me, this open, bright natural light. It’s almost like a main street mall design, Bertsch said.

The gallery entrance divides the clinic and therapy side of the facility to the west and the hospital, emergency, lab and services, including kitchen and laundry, to the east.

The building brings all of the community’s health services under one roof, and, soon, clinic patients who need blood work or scans will move across a building to specialized rooms with new, state‐of‐the‐art equipment.

This is 56,000 square feet of forward thinking in patient care, and consideration was given to every detail. A separate entrance for emergency care directly into the hospital means a high level of discretion for trauma cases.

This will give privacy for the patient and a better flow for us, Bertsch said.

A central care station on the hospital side has room for the nursing and physician staff to work cooperatively, rather than in closed offices, surrounded by glassed‐in recovery rooms for post‐surgical or critical‐care patients who need constant observation. The care station is closely located next to two surgical suites, one for scopic procedures, such as colonoscopies, and another for general surgery.

Hospital board vice chairman Fred Stern said the building architect, Neenan Archistruction, of Colorado, was picked for its expertise in designing small critical care facilities, such as Hazen.

It’s very modern, very efficient and the concept design gives a warm feeling and a positive experience, Stern said.

The hospital’s 13 patient rooms have large windows, walk‐in tiled showers and each will be equipped with a visitor’s couch that folds down into a small bed — a small feature in itself, but one that speaks of comfort and consideration.

Bertsch said the new facility will offer three‐dimensional mammogram imaging, joining less than a dozen medical facilities in the state that have the latest and greatest in breast cancer detection. In all, the budget includes $3 million in new diagnostic equipment to replace outdated pieces.

Initially, the plan was the new hospital would be ready in time for Christmas, but the Grinch crept into the works, both in the form of dual blizzards and difficulties in finding adequate workers for some of the subcontractor details.

That’s delayed demolition of the current hospital and construction of a new parking lot into the spring and summer. It does give ample time to plan the move from one building to the other, with all staff, volunteers and moving services hands on deck during the two to three days it will take. Bertsch said for know‐how, he turned to staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson, which recently underwent the same experience.

We talked with them about what worked and what didn’t, Bertsch said.

The current hospital dates to 1970 and its contents will be sold at public auction after anything useful and necessary is removed to the new one. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the project’s capital campaign.

When it goes down, it will be the second hospital building in Hazen to be demolished in less than a year. One built in 1948 that was turned into a retirement home and later sold to an individual was demolished this fall to make way for an apartment complex that should be ready for occupancy in September.

Before opening for business, the hospital will be subject to inspection and licensing by the state Health Department. A construction loan was turned over into long‐term financing this week as the long‐anticipated project moves closer to operations. Stern said he’s comfortable with the financial outlook for the new facility, especially after some good revenue years for the institution.

Sometimes, you’re good and, sometimes, you’re lucky. We’re benefiting from some extremely low interest rates and some grants. Mercer County and the area have been very supportive of the hospital, and we’re in a good position to go down this road, Stern said.

Bertsch said the staff is more than ready to make the switch and moving days — when they finally come — won’t be a moment too soon.

There’s a lot of anxiousness to get into the new facility and get past the move, he said

(Reach Lauren Donovan at 7012205511 or