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Patients, staff moved into Community Memorial Hospital's new wing on Monday

CMH Director of Inpatient Services Tom Gauthier (right) explains how the new bariatric room can handle patients who weigh as much as 1,000 pounds. Jana Peterson/Pine Journal1 / 2
The Ellefson family from Culver (below) enjoys a tour of the new birthing unit, two days after their newest addition, Beau, was born in the old birthing rooms at the hospital.2 / 2

If only the baby had waited five more days.

Then the Ellefson family of Culver could have welcomed baby Beau in the new spacious birthing suites at Cloquet's Community Memorial Hospital. Still, even if the new rooms had been open, mom Mandi Ellefson wouldn't have had much time to enjoy the new Jacuzzi tub, since she arrived at the hospital at 11:53 p.m. Wednesday and had the baby at 11:58 p.m.

Beau - a healthy baby boy - was the fourth child born to the Ellefsons at CMH.

"Everyone keeps telling me he was a little too early," said Mandi, laughing, as she and husband Ben toured the new wing of the hospital Friday afternoon with their three older children. "The space [in the new rooms] would have been nice - we were quite crowded with visitors yesterday.

"I think the room we were in is about the size of the bathroom in this suite."

On Monday - after some 400 community members toured the hospital Thursday - patients and staff moved into the new wing at CMH.

"It feels much more real now, seeing people there after watching that space come together over the last year and a half," said Rick Breuer, CMH administrator/CEO. "That's why we built it - to care for people."

The $27.5 million Phase 2 project added 80,000 square feet to the hospital, increasing the previous campus size of 151,000 square feet by more than 50 percent.

The top floor of the new wing contains 18 new private, much larger, inpatient rooms, along with three birthing rooms and four private intensive care rooms. Also included is a special "bariatric" room for larger patients - both the bed and the lift will hold up to 1,000 pounds - which can also serve as an isolation unit, in case a patient is infected with a highly contagious disease. Also on that floor is an area for patients undergoing infusion therapies - such as chemotherapy or wound treatments - and a new large family waiting area.

"We have all kinds of stuff we've never had before," said Tom Gauthier, director of inpatient services, pointing out the new infusion treatment stations and state-of-the-art patient monitoring systems. "Now we have them in grand fashion."

On the middle floor of the new wing is "employee/community space." There is a new kitchen and a significantly larger cafeteria/restaurant area that has garnered rave reviews from staff and guests. On that same floor, there are also meeting rooms (available to the public) as well as new educational classrooms, including a computer lab and a "simulation" lab with patient beds, etc., for training.

Breuer said the new classrooms will be used to train the hospital's own staff but will also be open to other area healthcare professionals.

On the lowest floor, or sub-basement, there are two docking areas for delivery trucks plus significantly more storage area as well as a new linen facility and space for all the mechanical equipment needed to run both the new addition and the oldest portion of the hospital.

On Friday, Gauthier said everybody was "extremely excited" about moving into the new wing on Monday.

"We've been given this opportunity to come and work in a new state-of-the-art patient facility," he said. "And we'll just continue to provide a high level of patient care in a brand new environment. It's absolutely, extremely, well ... it's very nice. We're very fortunate to have this in our community."

Local contractors Ray Riihiluoma Inc. and Oscar J. Boldt Construction worked together on both Phase 1 - diagnostic and critical care services - and Phase 2 of the hospital expansion.

When asked if the hospital renovations are complete, Breuer said no.

"I don't think we'll ever be done," he said.