PCMC interested in Hill School property

Pipestone County Medical Center (PCMC) CEO Brad Burris and some of PCMC’s governing board members have expressed interest in purchasing the former Hill Elementary School property for a structure that would house a larger therapy department, and potentially an indoor wellness area for the community and a daycare center for PCMC staff. Pipestone Area Schools plans to sell the property by auction on Jan. 28. K. Kuphal

Pipestone County Medical Center (PCMC) might be among the bidders for the former Hill Elementary School property when the auction for that and the Brown Elementary School property is held on Friday, Jan. 28.

PCMC CEO Brad Burris said during the PCMC Governing Board’s Dec. 28 meeting that the idea of purchasing the Hill School property came up during a “brainstorming session.”

“The genesis of this was trying to identify space options for an enlarged therapy department,” Burris said.

He said the idea was driven by a desire to support departmental growth of the therapy department and the orthopedic services line. Burris said a building at the Hill property could potentially house therapy and rehabilitation space, an indoor walking track and wellness space for the community, and a daycare center for PCMC staff members. Burris said the daycare could help with staff recruitment and retention.

“I know that when we recruit physicians, community amenities are a big deal,” Burris said. “They’re a very big deal.”

Burris said PCMC had an architect develop a drawing that he presented and referred to as “a very preliminary concept” to see how much of the property might be used if PCMC bought the land and constructed a new building there.

“Obviously, this is a concept and would require a lot of further study and would also include, obviously, a lot of in depth financial feasibility study to determine whether it’s doable or not,” Burris said. “If the land is purchased and the plans don’t come to fruition, it could always be sold. Any unused portion of the land could be sold.”

He said the therapy department does not have room to expand in PCMC’s existing facility and that the cardiac rehabilitation area could be moved to the current therapy space if a new therapy space was built. The existing therapy space could also be used for a central sterilization area, Burris said.

Curt Hohman, senior vice president of managed hospitals for Avera, said Blue Cross Blue Shield has grants available for community wellness that could potentially fund a portion of the project used for that purpose.

Burris said the former Hill school property is less than 250 yards from PCMC’s existing facility, which makes it beneficial for Medicare reimbursement under provider based rules. He said several hospital staff members visited a community wellness facility in Montevideo that houses a therapy department and home health.

Board member Chris Hollingsworth said he didn’t want to compete with the Ewert Recreation Center, which is owned by the city of Pipestone, and floated the idea of a collaboration on a new space. Board member Dan Wildermuth asked if land PCMC already owns to the north of the existing facility could be used rather than buying the Hill property.

“We’ve got other properties that are contiguous to our existing campus that we could add onto,” Wildermuth said.

He said he thought community members would prefer to see the former Hill property used for a purpose that would generate tax revenue based on recent discussions about the former Central School property and the former Southwestern Mental Health property. Johnson said he thought the public would support PCMC acquiring the Hill property for a use that will create well paying jobs and grow PCMC’s operations.

“It would be a foolish notion to pass it up,” Johnson said.

Board member Les Nath said he didn’t think PCMC would ever have a better chance to acquire property than with the Hill property.

The board went into closed session at the end of the meeting to discuss the potential purchase of the Hill school property and the Jasper Clinic property, which is owned by the Jasper Development Corporation (JDC). Burris said later that the board instructed administration to have the county attorney prepare the appropriate documents to purchase the Jasper Clinic building from JDC and took no action regarding the Hill property.