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Altru may not rebuild on site of damaged clinic

The Altru Main Clinic has been closed since late December after structural problems forced the closure of the building. Eric Hylden/Forum News Service

Altru Health System will demolish its structurally damaged main clinic building this fall, but may not construct another building in its place, said Brad Wehe, chief operations officer.

"The decision hasn't been made, but I do not feel like that's the direction we're heading," Wehe said. "To just replace that building, with all those services in it at that location, is probably not what we'll end up doing."

Bids are being accepted for building demolition, which is expected to begin this fall and be completed by end of the year, Wehe said.

The building at 12th Avenue and South Columbia Road was damaged Dec. 29 when a structural joint failed near the pharmacy, requiring a total and permanent evacuation.

Clinical practices in the building were relocated to other spaces on Altru campuses on South Columbia and South Washington Street. About 500 employees were relocated.

Many of the spaces they have moved to have been renovated to accommodate state-of-the-art technology, "best practices" in the delivery of services, and improved workflow, Wehe said.

Altru also purchased building space adjacent to its South Washington properties to house some of the practices that were in the main clinic.

Wehe said some practices may stay where they were initially relocated.

Of the other, roughly 10 practices that were relocated temporarily, "the last one or two practices" will move into new quarters when construction is complete in about six weeks, he said. One of the last to move, general surgery, will be housed on the third floor of the rehab building just south of Altru Hospital.

In recent months, Altru officials have been in discussion and working with a national consulting group, ECG, and local architecture and construction management firms to review its master site facilities plan and look toward future development, Wehe said.

"We did not want to necessarily just limit it to replacing that (main) clinic," Wehe said. "I don't think we're convinced that we need to possibly rebuild that clinic where it was."

Officials are analyzing how services are provided in the entire medical park, including both Columbia Road and South Washington campuses.

"We want to look at demographics, the changing way we practice medicine, the demand analysis, telemedicine, the use of other technology," he said.

"When we get that information back from our partners, and it's presented to us (this fall), we'll digest that and then see what it is we plan to do."

Any decisions concerning the proposed master plan or construction of new buildings will likely be made by Altru's board of directors in the final quarter of 2017, Wehe said.