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Aspirus to build new hospital in Ontonagon

Facility updates include closure of skilled nursing facility
FILE. Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital entrance.
FILE. Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital entrance.(WLUC)
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 3:16 PM EDT
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ONTONAGON, Mich. (WLUC) – Aspirus Health is constructing a new hospital in Ontonagon to replace its current facility, according to a Wednesday afternoon press release.

Planning is in the early stages, but construction is expected to begin in spring 2022 on a new $15.8 million facility on the site of the existing Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital.

The new hospital will feature a mix of inpatient and observation beds, emergency department, primary and specialty care, as well as a host of other services, including imaging and infusion.

“Our current hospital opened in 1969 and is in need of several upgrades and modernization,” said Dylan Taylor, Chief Administrative Officer at Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital. “By building a new hospital, we can further demonstrate our commitment to the Ontonagon community and provide area residents with a modern facility to meet the primary and emergent care needs of those we serve into the future.”

While planning for the new hospital moves forward, one immediate change is the closure of the Aspirus Ontonagon Skilled Nursing Facility, pending state and regulatory approval. The decision to close the facility comes after a multidisciplinary team’s thorough analysis of declining occupancy trends, staffing challenges due to COVID-19 impacts and other factors.

“This is not a decision we wanted to make, but it just isn’t sustainable to continue offering skilled nursing care in Ontonagon given the current challenges,” said Dylan Taylor, Chief Administrative Officer at Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital. “We are extremely grateful for all the residents who have chosen us for their care, and we will work with each of our 22 current residents and their families to find safe and appropriate placement at alternative facilities in the Upper Peninsula.”

Volumes at the Aspirus Ontonagon Skilled Nursing Facility have fallen by 47% during the past nine years and the facility has become more reliant on contract staff to fill open positions. These factors led to the analysis of the long-term viability of the facility.

“Due to increasingly difficult state and federal regulations around COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, we are finding that working in skilled nursing and nursing home settings is less desirable for many individuals,” Taylor said. “Community members are also more frequently choosing alternative care options like home health due to the visitor restrictions and other challenges brought on by the pandemic.”

The closure impacts 29 staff members, who Aspirus is working with to find additional opportunities within its system wherever possible. The health system is offering financial and employee assistance support to help with the transition.

“This was a difficult decision, but we are committed to providing the necessary support to our impacted residents and staff,” Taylor said. “Our community has been extremely supportive of our efforts to provide quality care close to home and the best way for us to do that into the future is through our investment in the new Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital.”

Aspirus expects it to take at least two months to relocate residents. The regulatory agencies with whom Aspirus will work closely to navigate the necessary processes are being notified. Additional information on the hospital construction project will be provided as details are finalized.

Visit aspirus.org for more information.

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