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New Sanford Bagley Clinic opens Monday

Kirby Johnson, administrator of Sanford Bagley Clinic, points out a state-of-the-art X-ray machine at the new facility, which opens Monday. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BAGLEY — When patients report to the new Sanford Bagley Clinic starting Monday, they’ll walk into a comfortable lobby, traverse wide hallways, and ultimately enter spacious exam rooms.

It will be a big change from the old clinic, which was built in the 1970s with narrow halls and doorways and was rather difficult to maneuver around, particularly for those in wheelchairs.

“We took some surveys from patients about what (they) would like to see in a new clinic and we definitely took those opinions into account,” said Kirby Johnson, administrator of Sanford Bagley, encompassing both the clinic and the hospital.

The new $1.5 million clinic, located at 1656 Central St. W and constructed by Kraus-Anderson, vastly improves the patient experience, providing more than two-and-a-half times the space used for patient care, increasing square footage from less than 3,900 to nearly 11,000.

The project is unique in that Greater Bemidji — an economic-development agency headquartered in Bemidji — owns the building and Sanford Health will lease and operate the clinic. The city is provided tax-increment financing and loan funds and TEAM Industries donated $200,000 toward the land purchase and construction.

“For us at Greater Bemidji, it was really about helping the Bagley community over the longer term,” said Dave Hengel, executive director. “To see the number of community members turn out (at a recent open house), excited about it, that made it all worth it.”

Improvements go well beyond increased space. In the old clinic, with thin walls and doors, patients occasionally questioned their privacy; the doors in exam rooms wouldn’t open all the way, due to cramped space and equipment needs; and tiny bathrooms barely had enough room to accommodate wheelchair-bound patients.

Now, the standard-sized exam rooms feel almost like suites, with new exam tables, appliances and added storage. Each room has a work space at which providers can access the new electronic Sanford One Chart, which also launches Monday in tandem with the opening of the new clinic.

Doorways are extra large to comfortably accommodate wheelchairs, and the walls and doors are much denser to keep out sound for increased privacy. Additionally, background music has been installed throughout the building.

But while patients undoubtedly will have a much-improved experience, the facility also was built to better serve Bagley staff, as well, now providing a separate entrance, two staff bathrooms, larger offices and improved work areas.

The nurses area, for example, previously had nurses working back-to-back, but now, in a setup modeled after the pediatric facility in Bemidji, they will face one another, with a small hallway running between two rows.

“It sparks teamwork and integration,” Johnson said. “Physicians can walk up and talk to their nurses one-one-one (to their face). Before, that was always a pet peeve, a physician would have to come up and tap the nurse on the shoulder … this is just a much more friendly environment.”

Integration was a key word in the project, as the the new clinic also bought under the same room therapists who previously performed physical and occupational therapy at a rented space in downtown Bagley.

Now, with everyone all together, communication and patient care is enhanced, Johnson said.

The new facility also includes improvements in the ancillary services, such as a new updated x-ray system, and more efficient areas for lab draws and testing.

Additionally, modeled after Bemidji’s new orthopedics and sports medicine center, the physicians’ offices are located in the back, away from the exam room so they have a little more separation and privacy.

“The providers are really very excited, to be proud of where they’re coming to work every day, to care for patients,” Johnson said, “and it will be a big recruitment tool. If we need to recruit another provider or physician I think this this is a great tool to start with.”