Grand Island, Hall County and the surrounding areas are one step closer to having a new hospital, which doctors involved in the project say will help improve health care.

A few hundred people showed up to the southwest corner of Highways 34 and 281 for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Grand Island Regional Hospital.

Dr. Tom Werner, one of the doctors involved in the new hospital project, said the four-story, 174,000 square-foot full-service hospital will include 64 beds and “everything you would expect from a regional hospital” including medical care, surgical care, an emergency room, obstetrics and intensive care.

Werner added one architectural feature of the new hospital is that it will include an open window on the upper two stories that face east.

“We all have situations arise in our lives where there is stress and we end up in the hospital,” he said. “I would venture to guess most people standing here today, at one time or another, will themselves be on the top two floors of that hospital, wandering around, seeing that open window and Stuhr Museum off to the east.”

Werner added the biggest thing the new Grand Island Regional Hospital will offer is “local say and local control.”

“There will be local physicians, local nurses, local staff and local administration that is supportive to a local board,” he said. “Grand Island, Hall County and Central Nebraska, this is your hospital. This is the helping hand of your neighbors extended out to meet your needs.”

Dr. Ryan Crouch, another doctor involved in the hospital project, added there was a sense among physicians in the community, and the community in general, that they were experiencing “taxation without representation.”

That brought out the revolutionary and rebellious heart that a lot of the physicians and community members have,” he said.

During Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony, Crouch said that when the idea for the new hospital began three years ago, there were five doctors on board. Now, he said, there are approximately 85 physicians, plus health care providers and professionals involved with the new Grand Island Regional Hospital.

Once this group was formed, Crouch said it solidified and formed one collective opinion: It needed a healthcare facility that could take care of the Grand Island community and the region. After launching a grassroots effort to make the new hospital a reality, Crouch realized it needed the support of the community to make it a reality.

“We cast a net into our community and looked to harvest hearts that were in harmony with ours; people that wanted to do the right thing for their neighbors and community,” Crouch said. “We had such an (turnout) of community support and the same goals. We were amazed at how many people stepped forward to help us. They had similar values of kindness and wisdom, and helped us to work through some of the technicalities.”

Crouch also expressed thanks to Mary Lanning Healthcare and Bryan Health for their work in helping the group of doctors, health care professionals, businessmen and construction contractors learn how to successfully and efficiently run a hospital.

Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, who spoke at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony, said his wife and his daughter are registered nurses, which has led him to have a great appreciation for high-quality health care and health care facilities.

He added an event over the weekend, which landed his wife in the emergency room and in surgery, helped him realize the “incredible need for first-class health care facilities” across Nebraska.

“Now, with this new facility, we are going to have an enhancement to premiere medical facilities right here in central Nebraska,” Foley said. “What a great lesson, not only to Hall County and Grand Island, but the wider region of service in the entire state of Nebraska.”

Grand Island Mayor Jeremy Jensen said he ran for mayor to experience moments like Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony. He added 20,000 cars bypass Grand Island everyday and that the city is failing to capture those people due to not having enough growth to the south along Highway 281. Jensen said the new hospital project should help to attract these people off Interstate 80.

“When this particular project came before me, and I started thinking about it, it was really about creating the momentum,” he said. “Selfishly, I think about it from the terms of the economic development of our community. This project and this intersection right here (at Highways 34 and 281), is going to serve as a catalyst to get us to continue to move to the south and grab some of those cars that bypass us everyday.”

In an interview with The Independent, Cindy Johnson, president of the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Jensen and said the new hospital project is the start of something bigger.

“We need to close that gap and bring travelers off the interstate and into Grand Island to can partake in all of the wonderful products, services and entertainment options we have here,” she said. “This will be a catalyst for that type of growth and will spur investment down the south side of Highway 281. I don’t think we’ll be able to imagine what it is going to look like in 10 years. It is just going to be a huge difference.”

Prataria Ventures, a subsidiary of Chief Industries, which is constructing the project, previously told the Community Redevelopment Authority the project will total $110 million.

At its September meeting, the CRA approved a redevelopment contract with Prataria Ventures that provides $15.8 million for a three-phase development that includes the new hospital, a medical office building and a hotel on the property at the intersection of Highways 34 and 281.

Andrew Willis, an attorney working with Prataria Ventures on the project, told the CRA at its September meeting that there will be a 24-month build on the hospital and then an 18-month build for the medical office building and hotel.

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