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Tri-County Health Care in Wadena breaks ground on new health care center

The location on Highway 10 is meant to bring peace and tranquility as well as easy access.

Throwing the ceremonial scoop of dirt are Tri-County Health Care President and CEO Joel Beiswenger (from left) Jolene Johannes, Terry Louwagie, Steph Larson, Ben Hess, George Deiss and John Poston. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

WADENA, Minn. -- “When will Tri-County stop building?” While Tri-County Health Care President and CEO Joel Beiswenger said likely never, the groundbreaking of the new health care center, Friday, May 21, on Highway 10 in Wadena is a big step for their future. Plus, the new site has acres of room to expand.

After remodeling the Highway 71 hospital in 2005 and continual projects through 2017, the need for change with the facility to address health care differences became apparent, as Beiswenger shared about Tri-County Health Care’s history during the groundbreaking ceremony.

Autographed shovels and hard hats gave an extra splash of color to the groundbreaking ceremony, Friday, May 21, 2021, as Tri-County Health Care began construction at the site of a new health care facility west of Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The health care center will be a 125,900-square-foot building with newly designed patient rooms, technology and integrated specialty, rehab and primary care clinics. The location, on a former farmstead with nearby wetlands, is meant to bring peace and tranquility as well as easy access.


“I come with many emotions, joy and elation first of all that we’ve actually been able to bring our vision to fruition; relief that we were able to get it done and get through all of the roadblocks that we encountered; and great pride in all of the people that did this great work,” Beiswenger said. “And of course much thankfulness.”

Joel Beiswenger speaks on the history of Tri-County Health Care in Wadena as crews embark on the construction of a $72 million hospital project. The groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday, May 21, 2021. With Beiswenger are Chief Medical Officer Ben Hess (left), Wadena Mayor George Deiss and TCHC governing board chair Terry Davis. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The project was suspended in April 2020 due to the pandemic, though the project resumed in July 2020 with funding finalized in May 2021. With a slated 2023 opening, the added time brings the Highway 71 hospital to 49 years of operation—the same length of operation as the former hospital, Wesley Hospital, as Beiswenger noted.

As health care has adapted, the center is set to continue meeting patients’ needs for many generations. The health care concepts now more broadly include working on the social determinants of health such as poverty, poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of good jobs, poor access to education, untreated mental health conditions and substance abuse, as chief medical officer Dr. Ben Hess said.

“The social determinants of health will not be solved by fancy new buildings but they will be solved by the caring people inside that building and the hard work of our communities,” Hess said. “This will in turn transform a community into a healthy environment that people will want to raise their families in and start their businesses in and make a new life for themselves.”

Tri-County Health Care Chief Medical Officer Ben Hess speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new hospital Friday, May 21, 2021. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal


Patient needs are also more outpatient these days, which is a shift from the in-patient focus that the Hwy 71 location was built for. But the facility changes don't change the focus of staff on their patients. Registered nurse Stephanie Larson said Tri-County staff are “compassionate” and are like a second family to her.

“It’s (the new center) going to allow us to be able to take care of our patients, and with the most updated technology,” Larson said. “It’s just going to be so nice to have the beautiful facility just to be able to know that those rooms, everything in there, we took that time to really make sure that it was patient-facing.”

Tri-County Health Care staff representative Steph Larson shared that staff played an important role in planning for the new hospital during a groundbreaking ceremony, Friday, May 21, 2021. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The hospital is also expected to continue the economic growth in Wadena, as State House of Representatives District 9A Rep. John Poston and Wadena Mayor George Deiss noted.

“The importance of a hospital to a community, you can’t even put a price on that,” Deiss said.

While the groundbreaking ceremony was Friday, local contractor Kern and Tabery have been busy working the ground now for weeks. Much of the site was cleared and leveled. Construction company Mortenson Construction is stationed on scene across from Hickory Street, where they have setup an office and parking area. Mortenson market executive Joanna Slominski said the company looks forward to partnering with the community on this project as they will be working on this site over the next three years.

"Very important to us is the engagement of the local community, so we have been working with the local trade partners," Slominski said. "You'll see Kern and Tabery on site here and you'll see a lot of other locals. So it's so exciting to see the engagement of that, what we're doing to bring back to the community."


Funding the project

The total project cost is $72 million. The project is largely funded by United States Department of Agriculture loans along with a capital campaign and Minnesota banks. The capital campaign has a goal of $3 million with approximately $2 million raised thus far.

Tri-County Health Care groundbreaking 5-21-21 Warm weather, soft ground and no masks required made for a smooth groundbreaking ceremony for Tri-County Health Care, Friday, May 21, 2021.

CORRECTION MAY 25: The building is 125,900 square feet. That number was wrong in an earlier version of this story. It has been corrected above. We regret the error.

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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