Proposed new Tomah Memorial Hospital

The proposed new Tomah Memorial Hospital, planned to replace the facility built in 1952 and expanded in 1964, ’94 and 2004, would double the capacity of operating rooms, expand emergency and urgent care areas and increase obstetric services with additional delivery suites, among other improvements.

TOMAH — Construction of Tomah Memorial Hospital’s new campus, a scaled-back facility estimated to cost $66 million, could begin in August or September and be completed by the summer of 2019.

The hospital’s board of directors instructed administrators during their recent annual meeting to continue planning on that schedule, CEO Phil Stuart said.

The next step in the decision process will come in July, when financial documents are expected to be finished to help the board make a final decision on whether to proceed, Stuart said.

“Having the capacity to do a $66 million project is certainly very doable at this point, and we do not anticipate any problems going forward,” he said.

The project, which Tomah Memorial announced last spring, originally was planned to include a 130,000-square-foot hospital, an 80,000-square-foot medical office building and a 50,000-square-foot community wellness facility on a 40-acre site adjacent to Interstate 90 along Gopher Avenue.

Officials have shrunk the schematics to a three-story, 140,000-square-foot hospital and proposed medical office building attached to the hospital, with the possibility of expansion later.

Stuart cited growing needs as the reason for the building initiative to replace the present hospital at 321 Butts Ave., which opened in 1952 and was expanded in 1964, 1994 and 2004.

“We have many departments that provide services, but we have to limit the amount of services that they can provide because we simply do not have the space to do it,” he said.

Without the expansion, the hospital would continue to limit itself, and patients would have to seek care elsewhere instead of having access near home, he said.

The hospital has experienced annual growth for 15 years, to the point that it will serve more than 16,000 people in the emergency room and urgent care this year, he said.

Acknowledging that the original plan may have been “a bit grandiose,” Stuart expressed satisfaction with the revised proposal.

“Even though we may not get everything started at one time, we are still looking toward the future, and what we may be able to add on to our campus as we will have significant space for growth,” he said.

TMH and Gundersen Health System are discussing the possibility of Gundersen’s occupying part of the office building, Stuart said. Gundersen now has a clinic along Superior Avenue on Tomah’s north side.

Officials of Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, which has a clinic adjacent to Tomah Memorial, have opted not to move onto the new campus at this time, “but there is still consideration to provide space for them at a future date,” Stuart said.

Hospital officials also discussed with the La Crosse Area Family YMCA and an Iowa-based firm the possibility that those two might build and operate a wellness/community facility, including an indoor swimming pool.

The indoor pool’s expense sank that part of the plan, Stuart said, noting that TMH could not absorb the $8 million to $12 million for an aquatic center.

“Unless we had some very significant benefactor come forward to help fund that, it’s probably not feasible,” he said, although hospital officials still are seeking partnerships to take on that part of the project, as well as locating other health-related groups on campus.

Hospital staffers and administrators have been working on building designs with architects and designers from BWBR of St. Paul, Minn., and Market & Johnson of Eau Claire since early last year.

If ultimately approved, the new hospital would double the capacity of operating rooms, expand emergency and urgent care areas, increase obstetric services with additional delivery suites, expand outpatient infusion services and wound care, enlarge rehabilitation areas and patient rooms and make daily workflow more efficient, Stuart said.

The project will not boost patient costs beyond usual annual increases, he said.

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Mike Tighe is the Tribune newsroom's senior citizen. That said, he don't get no respect from the cub reporters as he goes about his duly-appointed rounds on the health, religion and whatever-else-lands-in-his-inbox beats. Call him at 608-791-8446.

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