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North Central Health Care CEO Michael Loy walks the halls at the new Mount View Care Center, under construction and slated to be completed this year.
On the surface, if one didn’t know any better, a place with a ground-level bistro, a second-level outdoor terrace and tremendous views of a lake and mountain might be easily assumed to be a luxury resort.
Well, it’s not a luxury resort, but for residents of the current Mount View Care Center, the county-run nursing home run by North Central Health Care, it might seem like a pretty luxurious upgrade from what they — and staff for that matter — are used to.
City Pages took an early tour of the new Mount View Care Center, a four-floor tower-like structure that’s part of a much larger $73 million total renovation of the NCHC campus. The campus already saw the building of a new Warm Water Aquatic Therapy Pool and a Youth Mental Health Hospital. A Community-Based Rehabilitation Facility is nearly finished right next to it on the campus’ north side.
The Mount View towers are expected to cost $28 million, says Marathon County Project Manager Troy Torgerson, who has been overseeing the project for Marathon County. That’s less than expected, and the lowered price allowed them to install some niceties, such as a real-time locating system that will allow administration to find staff at any time. That’s something that would have come in handy when NCHC had a gun scare a few years back.
Building prices have been good lately, Togerson says, which helped bring costs down. There are only a handful of contractors — probably 10-12 in the entire state — who could handle a project of the scope NCHC represents. Miron was chosen for the project.
Another cost-saving measure that happened: NCHC got a great deal on natural gas, and so was able to heat the building as crews work on it much more cheaply than using more expensive propane, bringing costs down significantly.
But easily the biggest renovation is the new nursing home, and it’s not hard to see that NCHC staff are excited about it.
Walking the Mount View towers
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Jessica Meadows and Michael Loy tour the new Mount View Care Center, slated to finish later this year.
The towers include four floors — the main floor includes a bistro, kitchen and some office areas. The buildings are set up to be both efficient — CEO Michael Loy estimates that staff will walk 80% less than they currently do, just due to greater design efficiency.
Everything in the towers is set up to be built around a centrally located elevator shaft and the idea of staging area versus public area is employed, so that staff can haul carts of laundry or food supplies without disturbing residents. It also means less chance of getting lost. The current NCHC building is a labyrinth of hallways that is extremely hard for visitors to navigate. Getting lost is a common occurrence on the current campus, but the new design will make that all but non-existent.
The bistro on the first floor will be open to the public, and community members can come in and enjoy a cup of coffee or some bakery from the bistro alongside Mount View residents. Tucked behind the building is a closed-in courtyard that will allow staff and residents to enjoy the outdoors without worry about residents accidently wandering off.
Also convenient: a short hallway will attach Mount View to the new therapy pool, a welcome addition for residents who use the pool. Right now it takes a resident about 15 minutes to get to the pool via wheelchair. The pool was one of the first to be renovated, technically part of a joint venture between the county and fundraising efforts by advocates for the therapy pool.
The second to fourth floors are all resident’s quarters. The towers are designed in a cross format, and each leg of the cross is a wing. The towers will hold 96 beds, with 32 on each floor. Each leg of the floor will have eight beds, and NCHC can make each 16-bed section its own wing if it needs to for specialty services.
The second floor has piped-in oxygen to the rooms, and each floor has that capability if they need it, Loy explains. Each room, designed to be individual rooms (Loy says he doesn’t think there will be such a thing as shared rooms post COVID). The rooms have staff equipment right as one walks in. The rooms each have a bed, their own bathroom with a walk-in shower, a TV and a small desk area.
Going up the floors “gets gradually better,” Loy explains. He’s talking about the views. Each floor is largely the same but the top floor definitely has the best views, with wide, spacious windows overlooking either the Southeast Side neighborhood, Lake Wausau and Rib Mountain, Aspirus’ campus or the airport runway. “They can watch planes land and takeoff all day,” Loy says.
The total building is 96,000 square feet, Torgerson says.
Excitement building at NCHC
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Michael Loy and county project manager Troy Torgerson outside the new Mount View Care Center.
The new Towers building has residents excited, Loy says. Many have been picking out their preferred rooms already, and have been watching the construction eagerly.
Staff might be even more excited. The efficiencies will save them time and it will be a much nicer building to work in than the building they occupy now.
It’ll also help with recruitment. The COVID-19 pandemic made for a tough time for employment at NCHC and the health care industry in general, Loy says. “When COVID first hit, we had a number of employees who just said ‘I’m done,’” Loy said. “They didn’t want to be exposed to it. It’s been hard on people mentally, in what they’re asked to do.”
By contrast, staffing the new youth hospital, also built as part of the campus overhaul, was no problem at all. “They walked in and said ‘this is amazing,’” Loy says. He expects the new Mount View to have a similar impact. “Little things like the cafe downstairs… they want to feel that vibrancy. People will walk in here and say this is where I want to be.”
But residents might have the most to look forward to. No more shared rooms, a much nicer view and natural lighting, and nice amenities like the bistro and outdoor areas will make the place feel much less like a nursing home. And, because of the winged design and staff staging areas, it will be much quieter than the current nursing home.
Loy says the Mount View towers are expected to be complete by the early part of the third quarter, and then NCHC staff can start moving residents to the new building. Work will begin in March on the new detox and crisis hospital, and the whole project is slated to wrap in 2022.