Mayo Clinic Health System breaks ground on hospital expansion

Workers with Boldt Construction watch as a crane lifts the steel beam they secured at Mayo Clinic Health System’s groundbreaking for its hospital expansion and modernization project Thursday.

Mayo Clinic Health System’s hospital expansion project literally got off the ground Thursday in Mankato, with onlookers watching a crane raise the first steel beam aloft.

The ceremonial groundbreaking, which did also include shovels and dirt, marked the start of a $155 million construction project slated to add 121 hospital beds by early 2024. It’ll be a vertical expansion adding three floors on top of the hospital’s existing emergency department, cancer center, heart clinic and specialty care foyer.

Thursday’s event was the culmination of more than a decade of commitment, planning and investment by the health system, said Dr. James Hebl, regional vice president for Mayo Clinic Health System in southwest Minnesota.

“Just seeing that beam go up really hit home that this is becoming a reality,” he said.

He outlined three priorities for the project: Increase hospital capacity to care for more patients, modernize facilities to improve patient experiences, and create a technologically advanced “hospital of the future” capable of meeting growing demands while being prepared for future innovations.

The three floors in the new patient-bed tower will link up to the existing hospital. Those three floors will house an advanced intensive care unit, a progressive care unit, new surgical and patient care unit and a family birth center.

“With this project we are building the future of medicine, literally as well as figuratively, right here in Mankato to serve the patients on south-central Minnesota as well as southwestern Minnesota,” Hebl said.

The expansion and modernization will provide improved work spaces for nurses who’ve shown their commitment to patient care through serious trials and tribulations over the last two years, said Lisa McConnell, chief nursing officer for Mayo Clinic Health System. She noted improved lines of sight will allow for continuous patient monitoring compared to more decentralized work stations.

“This means a better work environment for staff and a better experience for our patients,” she said of the planned improvements.

Additional current and past Mayo Clinic Health System leaders joined Hebl and McConnell at the ceremony, including Mayo Clinic Health System’s president, Dr. Prathibha Varkey.

Longtime hospital administrator Jerry Crest — whose tenure spanned from 1984 when it was Immanuel-St. Joseph’s Hospital to when it became part of Mayo Clinic’s regional network in 1996 to when he stepped down as chief administrator in 2013 — referenced results from a 1996 survey of area residents showing they preferred receiving care in the immediate area if at all possible.

The survey also found that two-thirds of residents wanted to be referred to Mayo Clinic in Rochester if they couldn’t receive care in Mankato, according to Crest. Partnering with Mayo, he added, allowed the hospital to address those desires while becoming the center of health care services in south-central Minnesota.

It took many incremental steps in the years since, along with the work of thousands of employees, leaders and health care providers, to bring the plans to fruition. The project is huge for Mankato and the surrounding region, Crest said.

“What we are celebrating today is the largest, most significant undertaking in the history of health care in south-central Minnesota,” Crest said.

The first beam now in place, external construction will proceed through this year, followed by primarily internal construction in 2023. The goal is to have the tower ready in the first quarter of 2024.

Patient care will commence as usual throughout the construction.

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