#7 — Health-care providers advance plans in 2016

File photo R. Wayne Estopinal, president of TEG Architects, stands in front of schematics of the new medical park as he discusses the progress with the project in November.

The rezoning of a piece of Trinity Health’s property in southwest Minot in November was a major step toward breaking ground on a new medical park this coming spring.

It was among medical news ranging from grants for nursing programs to hepatitis C lawsuits that made headlines in 2016.

Trinity’s architectural firm, TEG, was in Minot over the course of the year, holding numerous meetings with hospital department heads and staff to discuss design of the new hospital complex. Mortenson Construction, Minneapolis, held an an open house in November for contractors and subcontractors. Mortenson is a leading builder of healthcare, sports and cultural facilities in the United States, with projects that include the new Minnesota Vikings stadium in the Twin Cities, the Alerus Center in Grand Forks and the newly constructed Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.

The $275 million construction project is expected take just over 2.5 years, finishing in 2019.

The project covers more than a million square feet, with 850,000 square feet enclosed. It calls for a connected six-story hospital and clinic building, along with a spacious three-story facility for behavioral health services.

Plans call for 208 beds throughout the center, including 157 nursing beds, a 20-bed intensive care unit and an emergency/trauma center with 27 treatment bays. The site area covers 76 acres and will include more than 1,900 parking spaces.

The proposed construction is considered the first phase of the project. Trinity plans future construction of ancillary structures and additional medical buildings.

Trinity is seeking up to $430 million in bond financing, of which most would go toward construction of a new medical complex. Trinity officials presented initial plans to the Ward County Commission in November. A public hearing is planned Jan. 17.

Last summer, Sanford Health also closed on the purchase of land along 16th Street Southwest for a future hospital. How soon that project moves forward will depend on the response to Sanford’s new clinic and how quickly the clinic expands to its full provider capacity, hospital officials said.

Sanford opened its new Northwest Clinic in Minot Aug. 1. The $1.52 million, 6,800-square-foot facility at 1500 21st Ave. NW is a sign of commitment to Minot, according to medical center officials on hand for the dedication.

Northwest Clinic opened with 13 providers and a goal to grow to 36 providers in two to five years. Once fully expanded, the clinic will employ about 115 support staff. Sanford’s other clinic, in south Minot, offers primary care, occupational medicine and walk-in care. Northwest Clinic offers family medicine, medical oncology, general surgery, orthopedics and sports medicine, podiatry, neurosurgery and adult and pediatric cardiology.

In other medical news of the year, a lawsuit that aims to place blame for a hepatitis C outbreak in Minot continues to work its way through the court system.

ManorCare Health Services is seeking punitive damages against Trinity Health for negligence, unjust enrichment, negligent supervision, negligent retention and fraud/deceit.  Trinity calls the claim “replete with self-serving and conclusory allegations which are not supported by the evidence, extensive accusatory language in a transparent attempt to create a case where none exists, and ‘red herrings’ which have no demonstrated relationship to the HCV Outbreak and are based on pure speculation.”

The lawsuit arises out of an outbreak that came to light in the spring of 2013 when Trinity’s infectious disease physician, Dr. Casmiar Nwaigwe, reported that three elderly individuals tested positive for and were subsequently determined to have a similar strain of hepatitis C.

At least 52 patients were infected with a genetically similar strain of hepatitis C, but health officials have not identified a source. Most of the infected patients spent time at ManorCare’s facility in Minot.

ManorCare claims drug diversion at Trinity Hospital caused the outbreak, which was then proliferated by reuse of needles by a Trinity outreach phlebotomist. Trinity countered there is no evidence of a drug diversion in which an infected person used a needle that was later reused by another person. Trinity suggests ManorCare created its own problems.

The HCR ManorCare facility in Minot came under new management in 2015 with acquisition by North Shore Health Care. It now operates as Minot Health and Rehab.

On Nov. 29, the 21 plaintiffs seeking damages agreed to an undisclosed settlement with Trinity in North Central District Court. Victims had dropped their claims against ManorCare in June to focus on Trinity. One plaintiff who had intervened in the case in October is continuing his lawsuit.

Asked by residents in September to assist with their efforts to bring free hepatitis C screening to Minot, Mayor Chuck Barney, on behalf of the Minot City Council, contacted Trinity and First District Health Unit about providing screening. Both declined, citing information from the North Dakota Health Department and Centers for Disease Control that widespread testing is unnecessary.

Sanford Health offered assistance but agreed to provide the testing only if it received an invitation to do so from First District, which was not forthcoming due to position of the CDC and health department.

Also in September, Trinity announced a five-year $1.75 million donation aimed at ensuring Minot State University and Dakota College at Bottineau continue to graduate a robust pool of quality nurses.

Trinity committed $1.25 million to MSU’s Department of Nursing and $500,000 to Dakota College’s nursing programs. The initiative, “Nursing for the Future,” ensures the nursing department can continue to admit up to 33 students each semester. The donation continues a previous five-year commitment made by Trinity to MSU.

It adds a new commitment to Dakota College, which operates an extension of its one-year practical nursing and two-year associate degree registered nursing programs in Minot. Dakota College will put Trinity’s funds toward equipment, technology and salaries. Trinity will continue to provide classroom and laboratory space for Dakota College’s programs in Minot.

The Trinity Hospital Foundation announced in June that it would match any donations made to the foundation for nursing scholarships through July 15.

“Trinity Health Foundation started the scholarship initiative because of the projected shortage of 800,000 nurses across the United States and the devastating effect that will have on health and wellness in our region.  Trinity Health Foundation wanted to address the nursing shortage head on and build a vibrant and talented pool of nurses who will provide the best care possible,” Trinity Foundation Director Al Evon said in a statement in December.

The foundation’s appeal added $38,448 to the fund. The foundation awarded 10 scholarships of $3,000 each.