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Published on August 01, 2019

Bryan Partners in Grand Island

It's part owner in new hospital being built

Lincoln Journal Star article by MATT OLBERDING 

Bryan Health has bought other hospitals, built clinics and even opened its own surgical hospital last year.

But now the health system is doing something it hasn't done in decades: build a full-service hospital from the ground up.

Bryan, along with Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings, is a part owner in the $70 million, 64-bed Grand Island Regional Hospital.

Kim Russel, Bryan Health's outgoing CEO, said in an interview last month that doctors and community leaders in Grand Island approached Bryan and Mary Lanning about being involved in the hospital, which is under construction and expected to open next summer.

"Leaders there realized the value of having organizations with a track record of operating high-functioning medical centers assisting them," she said.

Dozens of Grand Island doctors, unhappy with the city's existing hospital, CHI St. Francis, hatched plans several years ago for a hospital that would be owned locally.

However, the Affordable Care Act banned new physician-owned hospitals from participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which essentially makes it impossible for doctors to own a hospital.

Enter Bryan and Mary Lanning.

The two entities provided financial support, experience in building and running a hospital and consulting for the hospital's CEO. They also will have seats on the hospital's board, but Russel stressed that all decisions regarding the hospital are made locally.

"The decisions on equipping and operationalizing the new hospital, services offered, and even the look and feel of the new hospital will be made in Grand Island, not Lincoln or Hastings," she said.

One of the local doctors involved in the hospital, Tom Werner, said having Bryan and Mary Lanning involved in the project gives doctors and other local investors confidence that it will be done right.

"Bryan and Mary Lanning have both been very successful. I mean, they know how to run a hospital,” Werner told the Grand Island Independent last year. “There’s a lot of expertise that they bring to the table to help us get this up and running and be successful."

Lincoln, with nearly 300,000 people, only has three full-service hospitals, two of which are owned by Bryan. Once the new hospital is open, Grand Island, with just over 50,000 people, will have two.

Grand Island Regional Hospital officials have stressed that they are hoping to grow the health care market there rather than "split the pie."

Russel said those involved in planning the hospital "know their community’s health needs best." She noted that the number of beds was kept "modest" and the hospital is being designed in a way that it can be expanded in the future if necessary.

The 174,000-square-foot, four-story hospital will offer maternity, surgery, emergency and intensive care along with other medical services. It will be part of a larger development that will include not only medical office space but also commercial space and other amenities.

Those involved with the hospital hope the wider development will help to attract more specialists to base their offices there.

For Bryan, Russel said the Grand Island area is important for a couple of reasons. One, it already owns the Merrick Medical Center in Central City, which is about 20 miles northeast of Grand Island.

"Merrick County residents already rely upon Grand Island for many things, including health care not available at their critical access hospital," she said. "This ties nicely with Bryan’s approach - we believe care close to home, when appropriate levels of care are available, is better for patients."

Grand Island also is an area where Bryan's outreach, "wasn’t as prominent," Russel said. Being involved in the hospital offers the opportunity for specialists in Lincoln to bring services to Grand Island that aren't there now, she said.

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