Groundbreaking for an expansion of Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids took place yesterday (Wednesday, Sept. 12).
Mercy Specialty Center, a 120,000 square-foot, multi-specialty medical building, will be located on Coon Rapids Boulevard immediately opposite the hospital.
The four-story building has a $22 million price tag and is being paid for by Allina Health, of which Mercy is a part. It is scheduled to open in November 2013.
The building will house the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute – Mercy Hospital, specialty care, outpatient surgery services and obstetrics/women’s care.
Features of the building include a drop-off entrance, plenty of parking, hands-free entrances, extra-wide corridors, elevators and suite entrances.
According to Trish Duerr, Allina Health, plans for construction support the latest medical technology and incorporate environmentally friendly materials and systems.
Future plans include a skyway over Coon Rapids Boulevard to connect the specialty center with the hospital, but that was not part of the site plan that was approved by the Coon Rapids City Council in August.
Taking part in the groundbreaking ceremony were Sara Criger, Mercy Hospital president; Dr. Penny Wheeler, Allina Health chief clinical officer; Coon Rapids Mayor Tim Howe; and Rachel Russ, a breast cancer survivor.
Criger has been on the job as Mercy president for just two months and she has been amazed at the great care provided by the hospital and the support of the physicians and staff, she said.
“Mercy is recognized as an outstanding hospital for its excellent primary care as well as its specialty care,” Criger said.
This specialty care center will continue the hospital’s commitment to patient care as a “destination campus,” according to Criger.
“It is the result of an exciting vision, planning and persistence,” Criger said.
The cancer care oncology program is the cornerstone of the project, she said.
“This is a day of celebration,” Criger said.
According to Wheeler, this project is a “really big deal” and will provide “a new model of care.”
Mercy is recognized as one of the top 100 hospitals in the nation and has a reputation for excellence, Wheeler said.
It is filled to the brim because people recognize the great care that the hospital provides, she said.
Through the efforts of Mercy and other medical facilities within the Allina Health system, the goal is to provide better care, better health, better access and more affordability, Wheeler said.
Howe spoke of the history of Mercy from its beginnings in 1963 when over 200 volunteers from the community raised some $600,000 to get the hospital built to today with this expansion project.
While its primary mission is the health of the community, Mercy also has an economic impact through the 2,200 people that it employs and its 745 physicians, according to Howe.
In addition, the hospital’s 995 volunteers last year put in more than 65,000 hours, Howe said.
The hospital is of great importance to the community and the specialty center will only add to its impact, he said.
“This project is also a huge piece of the puzzle for the revitalization plan of Coon Rapids Boulevard, which the council has had in place for 15 years,” Howe said.
“This is a great day for the Mercy Hospital area community.”
Rachel Russ is a breast cancer survivor herself, but 30 years ago she was the coordinator for her mother’s cancer care, handling all the appointments and everything that went along with her mother’s care, she said.
According to Russ, back then there was no Virginia Piper Cancer Institute to provide the cancer care coordination and the support.
The Virginia Piper Cancer Institute in Fridley provided those services and more when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and that’s why this project with its Virginia Piper Cancer Institute and oncology specialty is so important for the community, Russ said.
“Cancer changes your whole life,” she said.
“Thanks to the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute, I have been able to continue that journey and I feel strong.”
A not-for-profit health care system, Allina Health (formerly Allina Hospitals & Clinics) has more than 90 clinics, 11 hospitals and health care services, including home care, hospice and palliative care, oxygen and medical equipment, pharmacies and emergency medical transportation.
Go to www.allinahealth.org for more information.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]