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Floor plan for new Perham hospital outlined

An artist's rendition of the new Perham Memorial Hospital, along Highway 10.1 / 3
An artist's rendition of what the atrium area would look like2 / 3
A floor plan of the proposed Perham Memorial Hospital. Note the atrium, which serves as a central, "commons" area from where the public can access almost any department or office. The clinic is at the lower left. The pharmacy and therapy facilities are upper left. The inpatient area is the oval-shaped structure at upper right.3 / 3

PERHAM - Imagine an illuminated, all-glass, dome-like structure on the outskirts of Perham.

"It will be like a beacon that you can see for miles along Highway 10," said Perham Memorial Hospital and Home administrator Chuck Hofius--describing the glass atrium that is central to the design of the proposed new facility.

Chamber members were updated on plans for the new hospital, at a morning "Power Hour" meeting Jan. 12. Hospital officials are still optimistic about breaking ground this year, in July, with completion in spring of 2011.

On the surface, the immense glass atrium, which will rise three stories from the ground, may appear to be an excess, unnecessary expense.

But Hofius explained that the atrium is like a "town center" on the hospital campus. The public can easily access almost any department from the central atrium area. Further, natural light is very important to health and the healing process, explained Hofius.

There will be a second atrium in the in-patient hospital wing.

"The hospital is designed so everything is easy to find," said Hofius. Encircling the central atrium in the floor plan are the lab, emergency department, OB department, cafe, pharmacy, therapy wing and walk-in clinic.

The financial crisis of 2008 appeared that it might have stalled the Perham project, but "things are loosening up," said Hofius. There are several banks and investment groups that are interested in financing the project, he said.

East Otter Tail property owners will not be taxed for the project, emphasized Hofius.

The debt will be repaid through the increase in revenue and patient volume, said Hofius, adding that new hospitals at highly visible highway locations have experienced a 20 percent increase in business.

"Barring anything drastic during the state legislature session, or in the national economy, we are proceeding," said Hofius.

Construction costs are down and material costs are down, so "it is a good time to build," said Hofius.

As for the future of the existing facility, The hospital could be converted into more assisted living space, and possibly even family rental housing, said Hofius.

The worst case scenario, is that part of the building would be demolished, and residential lots could be sold.