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News from the week of January 31, 2007


Hospital pulse: Better, better, better, better

$600,000 spent in past year on facility & equipment upgrades


By Seth Schmidt

“We’ve been busy. It’s a good thing we haven’t had a lot of snow to move this winter,” said Dave Buysse, as he inspected a newly-installed door at the Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center.

Virgil Matthews nodded in agreement. “There hasn’t been time to let the dust settle.”


The hospital and clinic maintenance men have been at ground zero for a host of recent hospital projects. More than $600,000 worth of improvements have been completed at the hospital within the past year.

“There’s been a lot of clanging and banging around this place,” observed Cookie Cooreman, SVTMC community relations and marketing manager.

The improvements include:

• $300,000, new heating, air conditioning and ventilation system.

• $40,000, new flooring in patient rooms.

• $50,000, interior door replacement.

• $35,000, window replacement.

• $85,000, new radiology equipment.

• $55,000, new patient room bathroom fixtures, new plumbing, rebuilt bathroom walls and ceramic wall tile.

• $10,000, fluid/blanket warmer in surgical suite.

• $10,000, computerized nursing medication cart.

• $15,000, pharmacy mixing hood for preparation of sterile medications.

• $12,000, new video conferencing equipment.

• $15,000, new medical records storage cabinets.

Buysse, SVTMC’s maintenance manager, noted that some upgrades involved original hospital equipment.

“These last windows that were replaced all date from when the hospital was built,” Buysse said. Only four original windows from the 1961 building remain. About 45 hospital windows have been replaced over the past three years.

The interior doors, which were replaced to meet fire codes, likewise dated for the hospital’s original construction.

The hospital’s old heating and air conditioning plant, besides being inefficient, had difficulty maintaining needed temperatures in all parts of the building. The new “HAVAC” equipment has the extra advantage of giving the hospital a HEPPA air filtration system.

“It was much needed,” Buysse said.

The new radiology equipment, which went online in the spring of 2006, eliminated the need for radiology to maintain negative processing equipment and chemicals. The new system makes it possible to send higher quality digital images to off-site medical specialists.

The brand-new “Terra Flex” flooring is part of an on-going process to refurbish all patient rooms. The rolled flooring looks like wood, but is durable and easy to maintain. The flooring, which covered up old tile floors, will save housekeeping expenses from the elimination of mopping and waxing chores.

Cooreman feels the upgrades help assure that SVTMC patients “receive the very best care right here in our community.”


More enhancements ahead

Upgrades on the Tracy medical campus aren’t expected to end anytime soon. For example, new access doors are planned for the hallway area outside the hospital’s surgical suite. The $20,000 project will limit access to staff with an authorized card.

Hospital leaders are looking even further into the future.

Rick Nordahl, SVTMC chief executive officer, said that an architect will likely be hired soon to draw up plans and make recommendations better utilizing existing hospital space. The plans are also to consider a small addition to the hospital, he indicated.

Ideally, Nordahl said, the hospital and clinic could better serve patients if diagnostic testing areas, clinic, and outpatient exam rooms were closer together. One idea under consideration calls for a single entrance and reception area for all clinic, and outreach patients on the hospital’s east side. Such a plan, he indicated, could relocate the hospital’s business office to what is now the hospital’s outreach wing. (Some space in the hospital’s outreach wing will become available when the hospital’s therapy department moves to a new wellness center near the hospital this spring). To accommodate patient services an addition could then be built in the triangular area between the main hospital entrance and the clinic.

Cost of such a project, is as yet unknown, Nordahl said.

Any hospital remodeling plan, and how to finance it, would need approval from the Tracy Area Hospital Advisory Board, and the Tracy City Council.

No timetables have been established for the possible remodeling. Nordahl said that ideally, he’d like to see the project begin this fall.


$90,000 Wellness goal set

The Tracy Area Medical Services Foundation has set a goal of raising $90,000 to $95,000 for the soon-to-open Tracy Wellness Center.

Cookie Cooreman, Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center community relations and marketing manager, says that $10,000 has been raised already.

“(The drive) will be swinging into higher gear next month,” Cooreman said.

Money raised will go to purchase about 40 pieces of cardiovascular and strength equipment at the new Wellness Center. The wellness center is now under construction southeast of the Tracy hospital and clinic. Completion is targeted for this spring.

Anyone who contributes $50,000 or more, Cooreman said, could have the Wellness Center named after a loved one.

“It’s one of the opportunities we are offering,” she said, noting the wellness center in Slayton was named after the late Steve Cohrs, a former Murray County Commissioner.


Catholic Schools Week brings out kid's smiles at St. Mary's


By Valerie Scherbart Quist

St. Mary’s School is celebrating Catholic Schools Week.

The theme of this year’s Catholic Schools Week is “The Good News in Education.” Principal Jina Baartman said the idea behind the theme is for everyone to live their lives and spread the good news as Jesus wants them to.

The school is incorporating the “five fingers of prayer” into its Catholic Schools Week celebration. Baartman said the five fingers of prayer is used as a reminder of special people in our lives.

The first is the thumb, because it is closest to you, is a reminder to pray for those closest to you such as family and friends. The pointer finger serves as a reminder to pray for those who teach, instruct, and heal, such as teachers, ministers, and doctors.

The third finger, the tallest, is a reminder to pray for leaders such as the president, other world leaders, business leaders, and administrators. The ring finger, the weakest, is a reminder to pray for those who are weakest in this world. Finally, the little finger is a reminder that we are all very small compared to God and to pray for yourself.

Baartman said the students will be concentrating on one of the five fingers of prayer each day this week.

The weeklong celebration started Sunday, with opening mass at the Church of St. Mary. A book fair and open house followed the service.

Monday, students dressed up in football-related clothing for their annual punt, pass & kick competition. Tuesday’s dress-up day centered around hats. Bible relays were held in the afternoon.

An alumni pizza party is planned today, Wednesday, from 5:30-6:45 p.m. Thursday is pajama and wacky hair day. Students will have Bible stories and videos from 10 to 11 a.m.

Friday is school spirit day. An all-school mass will be held at 8:45 a.m. A talent show will be held in the school gym at 1 p.m. The public is invited to attend. The $100 calendar raffle winner will be announced at the conclusion of the talent show.

Closing mass will be held on Sunday, Feb. 4 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Currie at 9:45 a.m. A soup and pie dinner will follow the mass.

• • •

St. Mary’s School has served students since 1956. This year there are 51 students attending St. Mary’s. The school employs six teachers and Principal Baartman, who also teaches part-time.

Baartman said one of the goals at St. Mary’s is to include Christian values in any aspect of teaching where it might fit.

“We try to incorporate Christian values into the entire school day,” she said.

While spiritual values are a major emphasis, the school also has an up-to-date curriculum and technology, Baartman said.

She added that small class sizes are a big draw for parents who send their children to St. Mary’s. Many parents who send their children to St. Mary’s do so because they know they will be taught Christian values, Baartman said, whether they are Catholic or not.

Because the school is small, she said, parents feel they are more directly involved in the school.

“The families all work together as one big family,” she said. “We have a lot of family and parent involvement here.”


Presbyterian manse demolished

Water-damaged house couldn’t be repaired

The manse next to the Presbyterian Church was torn down last week.

Church elder Bettie Johnston said the house had sustained water damage approximately one year ago in a pipe break. She said a claim on the house was not processed until this fall, and by that time it was too late to save the residence because mold had set in.

The house, which was built by the church in 1953, was vacant because the present minister has his own house. Johnston said the old manse was moved when the new one was built, and is still standing in Tracy today.

Johnston said the church plans to keep the land but has no intention to rebuild at this time.


Chamber banquet is Saturday night


Good times and good food are promised at the Tracy Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet Saturday, Feb. 3.

The event begins at Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill with a 5 p.m. social hour and silent auction. Dinner is at 6 p.m. followed by a program and entertainment.

Banquet highlights will include presentations for the “Boss of the Year,” “Outstanding Citizen” and “Distinguished Farmer” awards. Chamber President Lary Parker will hand the president’s gavel to Carol “Cookie” Cooreman. An election will be held to fill three vacancies on the Chamber board. Mark Priegnitz, Chris Schons, and Lori Hebig are the board members with terms expiring.

The Callens Family of Minneota will present a “Branson-style” variety show as the post-banquet entertainment.

Advance $15 tickets are available at the Chamber office, Only a limited number of tickets can be sold at the door.


Expert recommends that homes be checked for radon gas now

By Bill Angell

University of Minnesota Newswire

Winter is the best time to test your home for radon.

Radon, a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of radium (a decay product of uranium), is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, claiming more than 20,000 lives annually. Minnesota is the fourth highest state with radon levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “threshold for action levels.”

A recent “pooled” analysis of residential radon lung cancer studies by members of the World Health Organization’s International Radon Project is probably the most definitive residential radon risk assessment in our lifetime.

Everyone involved in the study agrees that the scientific foundation for our understanding of the dangers of lung cancer from radon exposure in the home is greater than previously thought. At the current radon action level used in the United States (1.3 picocuries per liter), the average person has at least 1 in 50 chance of contracting lung cancer from radon exposure in homes. (According to the EPA, the average indoor radon level is about 1.3 pCi/L in the United States; the average outdoor level is about 0.4 pCi/L.)

You should test your home for radon now—not when you want to sell your home. Short-term testing is best done when homes are closed up—and in Minnesota, that’s winter. The major source of high levels of radon in houses is in the soil surrounding the house, according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service. The radon gas from the soil enters the house—or building—through cracks in the foundation floor, walls, drains, sumps, joints or other openings.

Radon expertise ‘U’

The Midwest Universities Radon Consortium at the University of Minnesota is one of four U.S. EPA Regional Radon Training Centers. It offers training on the health risks posed by radon and on radon mitigating methods. For more information about the center and its 2006-07 courses, visit the Radon Center at

And if you’re a prospective home buyer, insist on a radon test. This applies even when you’re buying a new home. Research has shown no difference in radon levels between new and existing homes in Minnesota.

If you’re building a new home, you’ll want to incorporate radon-resistant construction features. This can be done for $300 to $500, a cost much less than fixing a radon problem once the home is built.

Testing is easy and inexpensive. Information about testing from local public health offices, state health offices and the EPA. In Minnesota, go to; see for detailed information from the EPA. You can also order radon-testing kits from