2008-05-31 / Top News

Community Leaders, Hospital Board Take Part in Hospital Groundbreaking

By Amy Polk

A cake celebrating the partnership among Mackinac Island, Mackinac Straits Health Systems, and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is lifted here by (from left) trustees Margaret Doud of Mackinac Island, Fred Paquin of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and Mackinac Straits Hospital CEO Rod Nelson. The three were among those participating in groundbreaking ceremonies for the new hospital Wednesday, May 28. A cake celebrating the partnership among Mackinac Island, Mackinac Straits Health Systems, and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is lifted here by (from left) trustees Margaret Doud of Mackinac Island, Fred Paquin of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and Mackinac Straits Hospital CEO Rod Nelson. The three were among those participating in groundbreaking ceremonies for the new hospital Wednesday, May 28. A future "place of hope and healing" was celebrated Wednesday, May 28, as more than 100 people participated in groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Mackinac Straits Health Systems hospital on North State Street in St. Ignace, across from Lake Huron.

Father Jim Williams, longtime parish priest of Ste. Anne's Catholic Church on Mackinac Island and retired from St. Ignatius Loyola in St. Ignace, opened ceremonies with a prayer that community leaders, workers, and all involved with the endeavor make this new hospital site a place of hope and healing, "and that they will deliver a message of hope."

Giving his message in both English and the Ojibwa, Father Williams said, "This is a community that understands the bottom line is always compassion."

Mackinac Straits Hospital Authority Chairman Ron Mitchell (standing at podium) recognizes many people attending the hospital groundbreaking ceremony May 28, including (standing, from left) St. Ignace Mayor Paul Grondin, Grand Hotel President and hospital fundraising co-chair Dan Musser, U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak, former State Senator and Hospital Authority Board member Walter North, (standing in background) Michigan Department of Community Health Director Janet Olszewski, USDA Director Gene DeRossett, Amy Berglund representing Senator Carl Levin, and Sheri Davie representing Senator Debbie Stabenow's office. Mackinac Straits Hospital Authority Chairman Ron Mitchell (standing at podium) recognizes many people attending the hospital groundbreaking ceremony May 28, including (standing, from left) St. Ignace Mayor Paul Grondin, Grand Hotel President and hospital fundraising co-chair Dan Musser, U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak, former State Senator and Hospital Authority Board member Walter North, (standing in background) Michigan Department of Community Health Director Janet Olszewski, USDA Director Gene DeRossett, Amy Berglund representing Senator Carl Levin, and Sheri Davie representing Senator Debbie Stabenow's office. His prayer was followed by the honor drum song performance by the Bahweting Singers, and several other community and government leaders who all commended the unique partnership between Mackinac Straits Hospital, Mackinac Island, and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The partnership attracted the $37 million loan package presented by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Development Wednesday, and will build a state-of-the-art facility to serve the health care needs of all area residents. A long term care facility and tribal health center will be part of the new hospital.

"We are particularly pleased with this kind of partnership," said Janet Olswewski, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. "It is truly a unique partnership that will ensure a bright future for this community. I believe this is the only place in the United States that has this kind of partnership."

Mackinac Island Mayor Margaret Doud called the facility and the partnership "truly a model for the nation," and said "the residents of Mackinac Island are thrilled to have this facility so close."

Plans for the new, $26 million facility include 85,000 square feet of hospital building and a new, 33,000-square-foot long term care unit. The twostory hospital building will have views of Lake Huron from its place on North State Street; physician offices for visiting doctors; expanded rehabilitation with aquatherapy; a stateof the-art emergency department with a drive-through, heated garage; updated radiology services with X-ray, CAT scan, ultrasound, and digital mammography; outpatient procedure rooms; 15 private, acute care rooms; expanded dialysis and chemotherapy services, and the new Sault Tribal Health Clinic to fill the health care needs of the area's many tribal members. The facilities are being designed with expansion in mind, so the hospital can grow to meet the growing health care needs of area residents.

Growth is also an economic strategy, necessary to keep the hospital and surrounding community in good financial health. Brian Peters of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, said hospitals are not just a vital resource to their communities, "but are also an economic engine."

"They are often among the very largest employers in a community," Mr. Peters said. "We hope this hospital will not only provide health care, but will also be an anchor of economic vitality in these turbulent economic times."

United States Congressman Bart Stupak commended the community and political partners in the project for "improving the lives of residents in the Eastern Upper Peninsula" through this endeavor.

"This will be a vast improvement on the old facility," he said, adding that he has seen the old facility, and knew it needed too many updates and improvements to meet the growing needs of the communities it serves.

"There was a laundry list of stuff that could never have been done without building a new facility," he added.

Peter Morgan, associate administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture's housing and community facilities programs, said the need for the new facility was obvious by the number of telephone calls and letters he received supporting it. Mr. Morgan flew in for the program from Washington, D.C., and said in his travels around the country, he often hears the term "community," and this is one project he sees the term well reflected through the efforts of local, state, and federal representatives.

"This is probably one of the largest financial commitments from the federal government in the last 10 years," Mr. Morgan said of the $37 million loan package for the facility.

Mackinac Straits Hospital Authority Board Chairman Ron Mitchell recognized and thanked all the people who spoke, as well as the following not previously mentioned: Senator Debbie Stabenow and her legislative aide Sheri Davie, Senator Carl Levin and his legislative aide Amy Berglund, USDA Michigan Director Gene DeRossett, USDA Area Specialist Jim Yoder, USDA Area Director Dennis Malfort, Michigan Hospital Association President Spencer Johnson, former State Senator Walter North, Mackinac County Board of Commissioners Chair Dawn Nelson, Prentiss "Moie" Brown Jr., Mackinac Island State Park Commissioner and attorney Dennis Cawthorne, former State Senator John Kelly, ArborOne Vice President Richard Calhoun, URS Architect Dan Cavera, Skanska Corporation Construction Manager Ken Mason, Michigan Osteopathic Association President Dennis Paradis, Michigan Center for Rural Health Executive Director John Baranas, and, representing the four entities of the Mackinac Straits Hospital Authority were City of St. Ignace Mayor Paul Grondin, St. Ignace Township Supervisor Dale Nelson, Brevort Township Supervisor Ed Serwach, and Moran Township Supervisor Jim Durm. Mr. Mitchell also recognized co-chairs of the hospital foundation, which has raised $500,000 for the new hospital to date, Grand Hotel President Dan Musser and First National Bank President Jim North. He commended Scott and Ruth Walker of the Haveman Group, which has been the project's consulting firm. One of the original Mackinac Straits Hospital Board members, Marv Winkleman, was also recognized, as was Larry Rubin, the longest serving chairman of the hospital board, and Mr. Mitchell's mentor.

Mr. Mitchell extended a "very special thank-you" to the hospital's Chief Executive Officer Rod Nelson, who has been instrumental in the project. He also commended hospital staff, Shannon Doran and Rosemary Brown, for coordinating the groundbreaking celebration, and Linda Marshall, Bridget Sorenson, and the hospital dietary department for making and serving the buffet luncheon for guests.

"The next time we will meet here will be 2010, for the grand opening of the new hospital," Mr. Mitchell said.

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