The renovation and expansion project is actually part of a larger construction plan that began in 2010. The first two phases of the plan included the construction of Therapy Suites, a 23 bed, short term care/rehabilitation facility located on the same campus as the long term facility. Therapy Suites celebrated its one year anniversary in August 2012 and has been awarded a national Citation of Merit from the Environments for Aging.
“We’re very proud of the work that went into Therapy Suites,” said Shirley Carter, Executive Director of the Rice Health Foundation. “Our patients love it, our staff loves it, and it’s making a definite impact on the short term residential care needs of our community. I think people have come to expect that when Rice does something, we do it right.”
The final three phases of the plan will cost $6 million. The plan includes extensive renovation and expansion of Rice Care Center. Rice Memorial Hospital purchased the long term care facility (which was then known as Christian Nursing Home) in 1994. The facility, which was built in the mid-1960s, has seen no major renovations since the original construction, almost 50 years ago.
“This is a project that’s been talked about by the Rice Hospital Board and Executives for a very long time,” said Carter. “With donor funds, we will finally be able to introduce the new industry standard of care for seniors in our community. This is very exciting!”
Perhaps no one is more excited than the residents themselves. Alvina Woltjer has been a resident at Rice Care Center for the past two and a half years. She has shared a double room during that time and is looking forward to having a room to herself. “Everyone is excited about the changes,” she said, “Especially the private bathrooms.”
Currently, Rice Care Center has 25 semi-private rooms with up to four residents sharing a bathroom, and everyone sharing two shower rooms and two bathing rooms.
“The facility was built during a different time… a different era,” said Troy Barrick, Administrator for Rice Care Center and Therapy Suites. “Today, seniors and their families are looking for a long term care facility that feels more like home and less like a hospital.”
Using feedback from residents, potential residents, care providers, and the community, Rice underwent a comprehensive market and facility assessment of Rice Care Center. And while it was revealed that the quality of care is second to none, the facility itself was lacking and obsolete.
The new facility will feature all private rooms with private showers and toilets. There will be 46 single occupancy rooms, plus two double occupancy rooms to accommodate couples. All rooms will feature the most up-to-date safety features for staff and residents, including an overhead lift system.
In addition, rooms will be located in neighborhoods with separate entrances for privacy and convenience. Neighborhoods will have gathering spaces for social activities, private events, as well as a beautiful garden to enjoy the outdoors.
Some community members wonder why private donations are necessary to help fund the renovation project.
“Rice Care Center is the only non-profit, community-owned, long term care facility owned by a hospital in our area,” said Carter. “Many people assume that because Rice is municipally-owned, it receives tax support from the City, but that’s not true.”
Carter goes on to say that community support demonstrates a shared vision of compassion and respect for seniors. “It shows that we care about their quality of life and what happens when they transition from home to long term care.”
Philanthropic support will also help reduce the amount of debt Rice Hospital will incur to meet this community need. The reduced debt will make the project economically feasible and free up resources for other health and wellness programs offered locally.
Barrick agrees. “As the Baby Boomers age, there will be a real need for long term care options in the Willmar community. In order for Rice to stay competitive and maintain our reputation for excellence, our community needs to get behind this effort. In the end, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
To date, the Rice Health Foundation is half way to meeting its $2 million goal. It has already received one million dollars in gifts, grants and commitments from Rice executives and directors, Foundation stakeholders, and private donors.
A $100,000 gift from the Otto Bremer Foundation was awarded on Thursday by MaryAnn Doyle, President of Bremer Bank in Willmar.
For more information, or to make a donation to the project, visit the Rice Health Foundation’s web site at www.ricehealthfoundation.org or call 320-231-4141.