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Prairie Ridge Hospital will expand with help of federal assistance

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 11/28/2012 8:25 AM

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ELBOW LAKE, Minn. — Prairie Ridge Hospital and Health Services in Elbow Lake has a bustling clinic, emergency services and a hospital.

The facility also has a list of needs. The current hospital was built in 1960. Bathrooms need remodeling for wheelchair access and the hospital board wants to add a surgery unit.

Those wishes and more will be reality early in 2014 with a new building thanks to the USDA Rural Development. The hospital and health services will receive $20 million in a direct loan and $4 million in a loan guarantee form Rural Development's community facilities program. The funds will also allow the board to purchase a clinic in Morris.

The board has been assessing the hospital's needs over the past three to four years, said Missy Wetterling, director of marketing and public relations for the hospital and health services.

They considered building an addition, but it isn't possible due to the hospital's landlocked location, she said.

A new location was found on the east end of town along Minnesota Highway 78. The new facility will be around 53,000 square feet and will include 10 private rooms, an emergency department, operating room, imaging lab, hospital pharmacy, clinic and support areas. It will be fully handicap accessible and designed to improve the safety of patients and increase staff efficiency —all on a 24-acres site.

Officials broke ground for the facility a few weeks ago. Construction has started on what is a proposed 14-month time line. The hospital is expected to open in early 2014.

The hospital has seen several changes and challenges since it opened. It started with the vision of several community leaders who wanted a local hospital. Their planning in the late 1950s led to Community Memorial Hospital. The hospital had financial struggles in the early years and caused a move, passed by county residents, to expand the hospital to a countywide facility. As a result, it was renamed the Grant County Hospital.

Several years later, its named was changed again to ELEAH to recognize where its clinics are located — Elbow Lake, Evansville, Ashby and Hoffman. Now it's called Prairie Ridge Hospital and Health Services.

It became a Critical Access Hospital and added a wellness center.

The hospital, like many rural medical facilities, strived to get doctors to serve its patients. The Grant County Hospital purchased billboard advertising highlighting their need for physicians. To serve its emergency room more efficiently, at one time it had a tele-link with a metro hospital where doctors in the Twin Cities could advise the care and the transport of emergency room patients.

Now, through a partnership with Lake Region Hospital in Fergus Falls, Prairie Ridge can offer patients specialists who complement the existing medical team at the hospital.

It's unknown what will become of the old hospital building, Wetterling said. It's owned by the county and leased to the hospital.