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Sanford Bemidji Medical Center is shown from the south, looking toward the campus, which is planned to expand to the west. Pine Ridge Avenue, pictured at left, is proposed to be vacated. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Sanford Bemidji medical campus expansion plans start with orthopedic center

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A new orthopedic center would be the first step toward a greatly expanded Sanford Bemidji medical campus.

Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota has detailed a master plan outlining its expansion plans for the future. Plans include a new 20,000-square-foot orthopedics and sports medicine center, a 24,000-square-foot surgery center and 40,000-square-foot cardiac center.

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To allow for the expansion, Sanford has asked that Pine Ridge Avenue south of Anne Street and north of 24th Street be vacated.

A public hearing on the master plan is scheduled during the 6 p.m. Thursday meeting of the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Commission. The JPC makes recommendations to the Joint Planning Board, which next meets in February.

"It's very exciting," Dan Olson, the vice president of Sanford Bemidji Clinic, said of the overall master plan.

Olson said Sanford plans to break ground on the new orthopedics center this spring.

Additional physicians and staff could be hired for orthopedics in the future, as that business grows, he said, but for now, the new building would replace the Sanford Bemidji Orthopedic Clinic (formerly Lake Region Bone & Joint) on the north side of Anne Street. Kraus-Anderson will be the contractor on the project.

"Right now it's more relocation of the staff from the current location, moving them across the street to be connected to the hospital," he said, "to have more convenient care for our patients."

The master plan, called a planned unit development, was created after hospital staff submitted plans for three building additions to the joint planning office, according to documents. Without a planned unit development, the additions would have each required driveways and variances for setbacks, storm water and parking. A planned unit development, instead, looks at the master plan as a whole.

In addition to the additions, Sanford plans a new hospice and home care office, medical supply building, additional parking and reconfiguration of current parking lots.

Olson said no timeline has been finalized for construction of the additions.

After merging with MeritCare in 2009, Sanford Health and North Country Health Services merged in March 2011. Part of that agreement was that Sanford would invest $75 million into the Bemidji community, including a $5 million gift to the NCHS Foundation.

"I believe that Sanford, in combination with the hospital and clinic coming together, has been a great move," Olson said. "It was a great move for the community and is helping us grow."

In October, Sanford Bemidji Medical Center for the first time performed cardiac catheterizations. Staff then said that the ability to conduct such procedures was the first step toward the development of a local cardiovascular center.

"Right now, we may (plan for the cardiac center being the second addition) because our cardiology business has been so successful and has ramped up so quickly," Olson said. "We need to find an immediate, a pretty immediate, (solution) for the cardiology program."

The surgery center will serve an expanded variety of surgical services at the hospital, Olson explained.

"As we grow, we will offer more specialized services," he said.

Pine Ridge Avenue

The bulk of the medical campus currently is located between Anne and 34th streets on the east side of Pine Ridge Avenue Northwest.

While the building additions themselves are proposed to remain east of Pine Ridge, they would cover existing parking lots.

Sanford has asked that Pine Ridge be vacated. Parking lots would be built on top of and to the west of the existing roadway. There would be parking lot access from 24th and Anne streets.

A traffic study has been done by Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. to examine the traffic patterns and how they would be affected under the proposal.

Hannah Avenue, located farther west, nearer U.S. Highway 71 North, would be reoriented to the east. This would create a greater distance between the Hannah/Anne intersection and Highway 71/Anne intersection.

In addition to road changes, the plan has called for the elimination of several access points, including three along Anne Street, reducing the number of in-and-out points along Anne Street.

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