Aspirus breaks ground

HOUGHTON – Officials with Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital see a need for expanding their services in the Keweenaw, and as part of a plan to accomplish that goal, they have started construction on a new clinic in Houghton.

During an official groundbreaking ceremony at the site between Walmart and the Country Inn & Suites, representatives of Aspirus Keweenaw, Wausau, Wis.-based Aspirus Network, city of Houghton officials, representatives of Neenah, Wis.-based Miron Construction Company and about 50 invited guests heard details of the plan for the facility.

Before the ceremony began, Chuck Nelson, Aspirus Keweenaw CEO, Rick Nevers, Aspirus vice president for marketing and planning based in Wausau, and Steve Tyink, vice president of business innovation with Miron Construction talked about the new Houghton clinic.

Nelson said talks about the need to create a new facility began more than a year ago because there was a unique opportunity to bring new services to the area.

The current Aspirus Keweenaw clinic on Lakeshore Drive on the waterfront in Houghton has outgrown its available space.

“In order for us to grow, we needed a new site,” he said. “(With the new clinic) we’re going to be able to bring a lot of functions under one roof.”

The new, 18,000-square-foot, $5.4 million facility will have 19 examination rooms, outpatient therapy, family medicine, pediatrics, oncology, orthopedics, women’s health, pharmacy, lab, and diagnostic imaging. The facility will be for outpatient service only.

Nelson said Aspirus Keweenaw has three facilities in Laurium, one in Lake Linden and three in Houghton. The partnership between what was then Keweenaw Memorial Hospital and the Aspirus system started in 2008.

Although he’s uncertain at this time how many, Nelson said new employees will be hired for the new clinic.

Design for the new facility was done with the possible future needs made necessary by the Affordable Care Act in mind, Nelson said.

“This facility is being designed with some flexibility,” he said.

Nevers said construction of the new clinic shows the commitment Aspirus has to the Upper Peninsula.

“We’re just thrilled to be able to do this,” he said.

The new facility will be able to provide various kinds of speciality care, Nevers said.

Tyink said the design of the clinic places all services close together, requiring the least amount of movement through the building by patients and care givers.

The design also includes ways to reduce the chance of infection.

“Patient safety is paramount,” he said.

There is room on the site for future expansion, if needed, Tyink said.

Construction on the clinic started three weeks ago, Tyink said, and it’s a little ahead of schedule.

“We’re in good shape,” he said.

Several local subcontractors are working on the project, Tyink said.

He expects the ribbon cutting for the building will be May 23, Tyink said.

During the ceremony, before introducing the other speakers, Mike Hauswirth, Aspirus Keweenaw chief operating officer, said the new clinic will be efficient.

“We’re building a lot of services in one convenient location,” he said. “We need to expand. We’re growing.”

Dan Dahlquist, president of the Aspirus Keweenaw Board of Directors, said the board is very supportive of the new clinic.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Houghton City Manager Scott MacInnes said members of the city council wanted a first-rate medical facility in the city, which they think is needed to attract people to and keep them in the area.

David Voss, president and CEO of Miron Construction, said the company has been working with Aspirus for years.

“We really think this building will be a showcase,” he said.

Jerry Luoma, Aspirus Keweenaw medical director, said the new clinic will greatly benefit patients.

“This is all about improving the way patients get health care,” he said.