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Franciscan about to open new $243 million hospital in Michigan City

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MICHIGAN CITY — Franciscan Alliance unveiled what one leader called the "newest, most state-of-the-art facility in the region" Thursday.

The $243 million Franciscan Health hospital at Interstate 94 and U.S. 421 is set to open Jan. 12.

"This new hospital is a true blessing to northern Indiana," hospital President and CEO Dean Mazzoni said at a blessing and dedication ceremony attended by about 400 people.

The 425,000-square-foot building is one of the largest health-care investments in the Region — ever — and the first new hospital to be built from scratch in Northwest Indiana since Valparaiso's Porter Regional Hospital in 2012.

"This is the biggest gift I've ever seen St. Nicholas deliver on Dec. 6," the Rev. Donald Hying, bishop of the Diocese of Gary, said before blessing the hospital.

The Franciscan Health facility replaces the downtown Homer Street hospital that was constructed in 1903. Mazzoni said the new hospital was "built to last another 114 years — and beyond."

It also continues Franciscan Alliance's rapid spending pace; the Catholic health care system opened a $50 million cancer center in July in Munster and broke ground on a $21.6 million hospital last month in LaPorte.

The Michigan City hospital was built along the expressway for easy access. Franciscan officials say they hope to attract patients from Chesterton to New Buffalo, Michigan.

Construction is still ongoing on some floors of the facility.

The Franciscan Health hospital has 123 private rooms, each outfitted with smart TVs that play educational videos about the patient's treatment. There is an outpatient center with same-day surgery options, a 24/7 emergency department with two trauma units, a behavioral health treatment area. Hospital officials say the facility has the latest in technology for imaging, cardiac monitoring, cardiac catheterization.

Other elements of the hospital include noise-reducing walls and windows to drown out the noise of the nearby expressway, hands-free devices for patients to communicate with medical staff, electronic room signs to more easily update patient information, and soft, ambient lighting meant to be soothing to patients.

The infection-control features include crack-resident solid-surface counters, wall protection that prevents dents, and lights that turn on without switches and automated water fountains that don't have buttons.

The hospital also has places to drop off unwanted medication — and babies (a Safe Haven Baby Box).

"The building is brick and mortar, but inside the building is the heart," said Dr. David Fumo, president of the hospital's medical staff, referring to his colleagues.

"What makes this most impressive and unique and special are the people who work here," said Dr. Vidya Kora, chairman of Franciscan's Northern Indiana Board of Directors. "You have not only invested a quarter-billion dollars; you have put faith in us."

Kora, a member of the LaPorte County Board of Commissioners, predicted the new hospital will spur economic growth and development in Michigan City and LaPorte County.

The interior design of the building honors its hometown, with tiles in the lobby that look like drifting sand and walls that bring to mind the waves of the Michigan City lakeshore.

The hospital was constructed by Tonn & Blank, a Franciscan Alliance subsidiary.

Hospital leaders said the new facility fits with the health system's slogan of "continuing Christ's ministry in our Franciscan tradition."

"Caring for patients at Franciscan Health is more than just a job," Mazzoni said. "It's a mission."

"Ours is more than a service. Ours is a ministry," added Sister Jane Marie Klein, chairwoman of the Franciscan Alliance Board of Directors.


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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

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