A group responsible for overseeing the county’s health care facilities got its first glimpse of a renovation project at Allen County Regional Hospital.

The Hospital Facilities Board visited the construction site of the former labor and delivery unit on Thursday. The hospital ceased delivery in 2020 when Saint Luke’s Health System began operating there under a lease agreement.

The area will be remodeled to become an outpatient specialist clinic, serving visiting physicians for various types of services such as wound care or cancer treatment.

It will offer six exam rooms, a procedure room, four infusion bays, a waiting room, areas for healthcare providers and other areas.

The project will cost around $1.1 million, but the facilities board has the money to cover it.

Under the lease agreement, Saint Luke’s lease payments cover the remaining cost of bonds to fund construction of the hospital, which was built in 2013. Taxpayers are relieved of this burden, but have agreed to continue to fund a quarter of the sales tax to maintain the facilities. Sales tax collections average about $50,000 per month.

The county still owns the facilities and serves as a sort of landlord, responsible for maintenance and upkeep, including renovation projects.

During the visit, council members noted points of interest. They seemed to like the layout, with four exam rooms grouped together on the west side and the IV bays in one large room to the east. In the center will be two examination rooms with a procedure room behind them. This room and some of the exam rooms will have large windows, allowing plenty of natural light.

The only surviving piece of furniture is a nurse’s station. Everything else will be new.

Over 4,500 square feet will be affected.

Construction began on May 16 and is expected to be completed in early September, with a scheduled opening on September 16.

Part of the new walking path around the hospital grounds, courtesy of Thrive Allen County. Photo by Vickie Moss/Iola Registry

IN ADDITION to remodeling the specialty clinic at the hospital, the group also agreed to remodel the Medical Arts Building at 825 E. Madison Ave.

Once this project is complete, they will use the space for a health clinic, moving from the existing clinic at 401 S. Washington Ave. A lease on the Washington clinic ends this summer; the county owns the Madison Avenue location, so it made more sense to renovate and move the clinic there.

This project will cost $538,442 and will redevelop 8,900 square feet.

Construction began on June 2; it is also expected to end in September and open by September 12.

The plan is to create 10 exam rooms, five vendor offices and a new lab, among other improvements. It will feature new finishes throughout the building.

The plan did not include any improvements to the exterior, but the group hopes to make some improvements there as well.

They would like to replace the canopy, which has a low overhang. A new awning would not be as wide but would still provide some coverage over the door.

The council would also like to rework the soffits and fascia, as well as the columns.

Price estimates have not yet been provided for this work.

IN OTHER news, the council of hospital establishments:

• Heard an administrative update from Steve Schieber, CEO of Critical Access Hospitals for Saint Luke’s. He briefly touched on the recent resignation of former administrator Elmore Patterson. Saint-Luc is looking for a replacement. He also announced that a new physician, Dr. Sam Wilcox, will join Dr. Brian Neely at the Medical Arts Building in October.

• Heard a financial report from Larry Peterson. Sales tax collections fell slightly in April, around $49,000, but rebounded in May to $54,000. He also reported that the county made its final payment for a loan the hospital took out at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to pay for surgeries. He also talked about a recent audit; the cost was higher than expected, so board members said they might consider switching companies for next year.

• I learned that a walking path around the hospital grounds was mostly complete. Thrive Allen County got a grant to build the trail, which is about a mile long and roughly traces the property line. A small section winds through the woods behind the hospital building. A lookout will be moved along the trail, overlooking a small retention pond to the south of the facility. Eventually, a garden will be added.

• Discussing the Hospital Foundation’s plans to update the electronic screens near the hospital entrance. Soon they will replace a large screen to recognize donors. Three other electronic boxes will be replaced. The foundation is considering a plan to showcase historic photos of the old St. John’s Hospital, the old Allen County Hospital and the current facility. The foundation also wants to install plaques to thank city and county taxpayers.