Published on February 18, 2022

Essentia Health to add capacity to serve more patients as part of VNL project

Essentia Health has decided to add additional ICU-capable rooms in our new St. Mary’s Medical Center that’s under construction.

During planning for the Vision Northland project, contractors and leaders from Essentia opted to “shell” — or leave empty — the 17th floor. The idea was to ensure we had the flexibility to meet ever-changing health care needs and allow for new technologies that make possible the highest levels of patient care. With the strain the pandemic has put on our existing infrastructure, we now will build out the 17th floor and make it ICU-ready.

“We anticipate the health care needs of Northlanders to increase in the future, and we want to be ready for that demand,” said Dr. Robert Erickson, Essentia’s physician lead for the project. “With that in mind, we decided it was better to get the 17th floor fitted now and be prepared to handle an increase in patients when the time comes.”

The build-out of this space, which is estimated to take 6-8 weeks, previously was approved by the Essentia Health Board of Directors. It’s important to note that this work will not delay the timeline for the project. Construction is still expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2023, with plans to start providing patient care during the third quarter of 2023.

“We are taking advantage of construction being underway already instead of waiting and remodeling later,” said Dan Cebelinski, Essentia’s director of facilities. “This will result in less disruption to the day-to-day flow in a busy hospital and provide a more peaceful atmosphere for our patients.”

The build-out will add 32 more rooms, bringing the total to 342 single-patient rooms in the replacement St. Mary’s Medical Center. There will be one double-occupancy room in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit designed for twins.