ROCK RAPIDS—Lyon County soon will have a new community medical center and clinic.

The approximately $28.9 million Avera Merrill Pioneer Health Campus in Rock Rapids is set to officially open on Wednesday, May 1.

“Things are coming along very well,” said Avera Merrill Pioneer Hospital administrator Craig Hohn. “We’re kind of in a transition mode right now. We’ve been focusing quite a bit on larger equipment, but we’re now starting to transition to supplies.

“We’ve got a few items yet from the equipment standpoint to come in, but we’re really transitioning,” he said. “Our central supply room is getting set up and our inventory is being established.”

More employees have been making their way to the new health-care campus, which is home to the medical center and clinic. The clinic is called Avera Medical Group Rock Rapids.

“For the past three months or so, it’s been myself and a few other leaders here on site,” Hohn said. “If you put five people in about 52,000 square feet, it’s relatively quiet, with the exception of some of the construction workers that have been around during that time.

“We’ve been seeing a lot more activity with staff coming in to do training — everything from how do you clock in on the card reader to training on Meditech, which is our electronic medical records,” he said. “We’ve started to do some equipment training.”

Hohn, a Parkston, SD, native, who lives in Rock Rapids with his family, is happy to see the health-care campus slowly coming to life.

“It’s been very nice to see some additional bodies around, some additional activity,” he said. “It really kind of helps you kind of visualize and envision the excitement and activity that will be around once the facility’s open.”

About 100 people will be working on the health-care campus, which is located at 1100 S. 10th Ave. in the southwest part of the Lyon County seat community of about 2,550.

Some of the Rock Rapids staff members will work at the medical clinic in George that is transitioning from Sanford Health to Avera Health, which are both based in Sioux Falls, SD.

Avera Medical Group George — located at 101 N. Main St. — will be open 9 a.m.- noon Monday-Friday.

“We’ll have staff that will be scheduled to work in George and they’ll leave from here and head down to George every morning,” Hohn said. “That facility will not be changing addresses or anything like that. It’ll be the existing facility.”

The new Rock Rapids hospital will feature:

  • An emergency room — with trauma and treatment spaces — that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Three pre- and postoperative rooms.
  • One operating room and one gastrointestinal procedure room.
  • Eleven inpatient beds — five private rooms will have one bed each and three semiprivate rooms will have two beds each.
  • An enclosed garage where ambulances will discharge or pick up patients.
  • Cafe space.
  • An administration office area.
  • A chapel and meditation room.
  • A pharmacy.

“Our on-site pharmacy in the hospital has all the appropriate ventilation and hood technology to be able to safely compound a lot of our intravenous solutions as well as our chemotherapy medications on site,” Hohn said.

He talked about the health-care campus’ other medical services, which will include 3D mammography, bone-density scanning and various types of therapy.

“We’ll have very robust laboratory services with our on-site core lab,” Hohn said. “We’ll have advanced imaging on site as well, and that will include X-rays, a 64-slice CT (computed tomography) scanner, ultrasounds.”

MRI and nuclear medicine services will be accessible via mobile trucks from Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in Sioux Falls. Avera eCARE telemedicine services also will be available.

The Rock Rapids medical clinic has been designed for specialty treatments and four providers — two physicians and two advanced practice providers.

“We’ve got 12 exam rooms and one procedure room in our clinic,” Hohn said. “Then we’ve got a separate designated space for outreach.

“We will have several outreach providers coming as well,” he said. “They’ve got their own set of six exam rooms and a procedure room.”

Hohn, a 32-year-old first-time hospital administrator whose first day in the role was Sept. 9, looks forward to leading Rock Rapids’ new health-care campus once it opens.

“It’s been a great transition for me,” he said. “This has been a long-term career goal of mine that I’ve really been working toward. It’s very exciting to be in the role that I’ve always wanted to be in.”


The approximately $28.9 million Avera Merrill Pioneer Health Campus in Rock Rapids is set to officially open Wednesday, May 1. An open house for public tours will be held 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, April 13.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) will attend the open house at noon as part of her effort to visit all 99 counties in Iowa every year.

To help pay for the project, the nonprofit Merrill Pioneer Community Hospital group applied for and received a roughly $17.75 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The long-term, low-interest loan’s terms are for 25 years at 3.25 percent interest.

The USDA loan, construction loan money from area Lyon County banks and the James W. and Ella B. Forster Charitable Trust are among many funding sources for the building project.

Jim Vander Woude of Rock Rapids, the president of the hospital group’s board of trustees, said the trust donated $2 million and the Lyon County Riverboat Foundation provided $1 million toward the project. The hospital group provided about $5 million in reserve funds and its capital campaign raised about $3.6 million toward the project.

“The board is excited and very pleased that we’ve accomplished our goal and we’re about ready to open a new hospital in Lyon County,” Vander Woude said.

In early 2016, Avera Health, a regional health system based in Sioux Falls, SD, agreed to lease operations of the community medical center in Rock Rapids and clinics in Rock Rapids and George from the hospital group beginning in May this year and lasting for a quarter century.

After years of leasing to Sanford Health, which also is based in Sioux Falls, the hospital group has partnered with Avera to build a new state-of-the-art critical-access hospital as well as a medical clinic for family medicine services.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in August 2017 at the location of the hospital group’s new community medical center and clinic that it will lease to Avera in Rock Rapids. Construction started later that same day and finished up in February.

Journey Construction Professionals of Sioux Falls has been the construction manager for the project, which means that the company has been responsible for coordinating and scheduling the various specialty construction trades for the work.