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Rural health care progresses

Just as Iowa leads the nation in producing food to help feed the world, the state is also a leader in its commitment to providing rural residents with quality health care options.

There are more than 120 health care hospitals in Iowa serving the state’s 3.1 million residents, including 82 critical access facilities providing services in rural areas. Only Kansas has more rural-based hospitals than Iowa.

“Iowans continue to work hard to ensure all residents have access to the health care options they need, especially those living in rural areas and communities,” says Bill Menner, USDA Rural Development state director in Iowa. “Access to quality health is a critical element as we continue to build rural Iowa’s foundation.”

Key Points

Access to health care builds a foundation for the future in rural areas of Iowa.

Significant amount of investment required to keep up with changing technologies.

Iowa is working hard to ensure residents have access to health care options.


Maintaining this high level of service does, however, require a significant amount of investment to keep up with ever changing technologies. During the past three years, USDA Rural Development provided a total of $109 million in loans and grants to 20 rural hospitals around the state, helping them make needed facility and equipment improvements.

For instance, in Belmond, a town of 2,500 residents in Wright County in north-central Iowa, an extensive hospital expansion and renovation project started in August 2010, thanks to $24 million in USDA loan assistance, a majority of which was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

When completed, the hospital will add 55,000 square feet and include a new entrance, emergency room, surgery area, acute care area, therapy area and helicopter pad. The remodeling will add additional clinic and office space.

Updating health care technology

“We are bringing state-of-the-art health care technology to rural Iowa,” says Nancy Gabrielson, CEO and administrator at the Belmond Medical Center. “The hospital will have two additional operating rooms, infection control suites with negative air pressure, two sleep labs, a new cardio pulmonary area, and will be wired for electronic health record implementation.”

The project should finish by August and will result in an additional 24 permanent hospital staff positions.

USDA Rural Development also assisted Community Memorial Hospital in Sumner in northeast Iowa with an $18 million loan to help with construction of a new facility. The new hospital will replace the community’s existing one, which was built in 1950.

The new 52,000-square-foot facility at Sumner will offer improved patient accessibility, expanded rehabilitation services, an outpatient specialty clinic and ambulatory surgery.

Construction began on the new facility in October and is scheduled to be completed in January 2013. Around 100 construction workers will be on site throughout the project, with an additional 20 people providing off-site architectural, engineering and construction management services.

Improving care of patients

The new facility will improve patient care through larger, private rooms and expansion of the hospital’s rehabilitation services, outpatient clinics and ambulatory surgery. The Community Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic will also be housed in the new facility.

“Building a replacement facility was determined to be the best plan for both the short term and long term, and will allow us to continue providing quality health care to the Sumner community and surrounding areas for many years to come,” says Kyle Teeling, community relations and development manager for Community Memorial Hospital.

Community Memorial Hospital is a critical access hospital that provides 24-hour emergency services to residents in Bremer, Chickasaw and Fayette counties.

“We are pleased to be assisting with so many hospital building projects that will not only help expand health care services across the state but will also help save, maintain and create jobs,” says Menner. “For many rural towns throughout Iowa, the local hospital is one of the community’s largest employers.”

Since 2009, loans and grants from USDA Rural Development have assisted rural hospitals in Iowa with such things as the purchases of new ambulances; medical, surgery and information technology equipment; dialysis units; hospital beds; and defibrillators, as well as complete replacement hospitals and extensive hospital renovation projects.

For more information about USDA Rural Development, call 515-284-4663 or visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/ia.

Leach is public information coordinator with USDA Rural Development in Iowa.

New hospital in southwest Iowa


Iowa’s newest hospital is opening in Clarinda in January. The Clarinda Regional Health Center, which has provided health care services in southwest Iowa for more than 70 years, is opening a replacement critical access hospital thanks to a nearly $19 million loan from USDA Rural Development.

The project created more than 400 construction jobs over an 18-month period and will ensure continued employment of the 170 hospital staff.

“This new hospital will allow us to continue our mission and grow our organization so that we can meet the changing health care needs in rural Iowa,” says Chris Stipe, chief executive officer of Clarinda Regional Health Center. “The hospital is built so we can expand or add on very easily. We had growth in mind as we designed this facility.”

The new Clarinda Regional Health Center will have updated equipment, a larger surgery suite, more comfortable patient rooms, waiting areas and care areas, and will support paperless medical records. “We hope this facility gets people excited about their personal wellness and health, and reconnects them with their doctors,” Stipe adds.

The final construction-related costs for the hospital building projects in Belmond, Sumner and Clarinda are expected to be more than $72 million, with USDA Rural Development contributing $60.9 million of this total through direct and guaranteed loans.


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IMPROVEMENTS: The expanded Belmond Medical Center at Belmond in north-central Iowa will have a new hospital entrance, emergency room, surgery area, acute care area, therapy area and helicopter pad.

This article published in the December, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.