Continuing to grow

LAURIUM – In June, the Aspirus health care system opened its Houghton clinic, and Tuesday, the company conducted a groundbreaking ceremony for an addition to Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital in Laurium.

The 34,000-square-foot project, which is expected to be finished in March 2016, will include a new emergency center, expanded trauma, procedure and exam rooms, new intensive care unit, new in-patient rooms, new pre- and post-surgical recovery suites, and upgraded technology and internal communication systems.

Several representatives of the Aspirus system spoke during the ceremony, beginning with Mike Hauswirth, chief operating officer for Aspirus Keweenaw and Aspirus Ontonagon hospitals.

Hauswirth said the AKH board of directors has been discussing an expansion of the hospital for a while.

“We have literally spent years budgeting and planning to get to this point,” he said.

The expansion is being done to ensure continued excellence in care at the hospital, Hauswirth said.

“This project is all about excellence in action,” he said. “Every aspect of the project is about patient care.”

Next to speak was Chuck Nelson, Aspirus U.P. regional CEO, who said he’s glad the upgrades are finally happening.

“This is a long time in coming,” he said.

The improvements at the hospital will include the latest technology, which will enhance patient care, Nelson said.

“We’re really excited about that,” he said.

Nelson said the expansion and upgrades at AKH are part of many improvements involving the Aspirus system.

“A lot of things are happening within this organization,” he said.

Dan Dahlquist, president of the AKH board of directors, said it was time to make the improvements at the hospital because of the importance the facility has for the community.

“We need it now and we’re ready to start,” he said.

Dahlquist said the non-profit AKH has been part of the area for 100 years.

“We are a Keweenaw facility,” he said. “That is our heritage.”

Rick Nevers, senior vice president, regional operations and system integration officer for Aspirus, Inc., said seven years ago, the Wausau, Wisconsin-based Aspirus system was involved in the Upper Peninsula with only Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital. Now it has four U.P. facilities including AOH, AKH, Aspirus Grand View in Ironwood, and the most recent addition, North Star Health System in Iron River.

“In every Aspirus location, great doctors and nurses are delivering excellent health care,” Nevers said.

All Aspirus facilities are committed to the region, he said.

Dave Voss, president of project general contractor, Miron Construction, said he expects the changes brought by the project will be significant.

“It’s only a matter of time before this hospital is truly transformed,” he said.

Voss said many local contractors will be used on the project.

State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, said being from Calumet he appreciates how important AKH is to the area.

“This is such an anchor to our community,” he said.

“I’m very thankful Aspirus is investing in these facilities.”

Last to speak was Dr. Michael Luoma, the new AKH medical director, who said staff and leadership at the hospital have been working together to make the improvements.

“That’s the key to our success,” he said. “I’m confident today that the Keweenaw hospital will always bring excellence into the future of health care in this community.”