Banner charts hospital’s progress

by Tom Coombe

It’s become a whole lot easier to track the progress of a massive fundraising effort by Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital.<BR><BR>Earlier this summer, EBCH partnered with Ely’s Piragis Northwoods Company, placing a giant ‘thermometer’ banner outside the popular downtown store.<BR><BR>EBCH will add more color to the thermometer as it moves closer to its goal of collecting $900,000 toward the development of a new assisted living complex.<BR><BR>Over $250,000 has already been pledged, and hospital administrator John Fossum filled in another blank space on the banner earlier this month.<BR><BR>Hospital officials are hoping that increased visibility will spur the fundraiser, which was launched last year.<BR><BR>“This has been a discussion point for awhile,” said Fossum. “We wanted to have something visible for the people who came back for the (Ely High School) All-Class Reunion and people coming up for the summer.”<BR><BR>And since the banner was placed at the busy downtown location, giving at EBCH has gone up.<BR><BR>“There has been some movement, but we still have a long way to go,” said Fossum.<BR><BR>EBCH is reaching out to potential donors who could see some tax benefits by contributing to the fundraiser.<BR><BR>The fundraiser was started to spearhead a project that hospital officials say will position the facility to keep pace with a rapidly-changing industry.<BR><BR>Moving the clinic to the hospital campus, part of a project that was completed two years ago, initiated the effort.<BR><BR>The hospital also remodeled its a nursing home, adding private rooms and reducing total capacity by 20 beds.<BR><BR>The next phase is an assisted living and cooperative housing building that would include more than 30 units.<BR><BR>Preliminary drawings of a building that would be placed on EBCH property adjacent to the existing hospital facility, current home of the Lincoln Rink, have been completed.<BR><BR>Plans for the new complex have been in the works for several years, but financial pressures and nationwide trends have sparked EBCH into action.<BR><BR>Cuts in public funding, the rising costs of care, and a growing elderly population have spawned the development of assisted living facilities as an alternative to around the clock nursing home care.<BR><BR>The dynamics of long-term care have changed dramatically over the last 15 years, reducing normal nursing home stays.<BR><BR>Technology and healthier lifestyles are allowing people to live longer, and trends show that more seniors are looking for an alternative to nursing home care. Most do not need the extensive - and expensive - around-the-clock care that nursing homes provide.<BR><BR>In Minnesota, estimates are that the senior population will grow to 1 million by 2025, and by 2020, for each person over 65 there will be three people in the workforce. That’s compared to a 1-7 ratio today.<BR><BR>The hospital fundraiser - “Exceptional Care Without Exception” -is being coordinated is being conducted through the hospital’s foundation, and a steering committee that includes Piragis.<BR><BR>In addition to the banner, EBCH is taking many other steps to raise funds and awareness.<BR><BR>Mary Zupancich, the hospital’s newly-hired public relations director, worked in the EBCH booth at the Blueberry/Art Festival and said she found much interest in the community’s health care operation.<BR><BR>“There were so many people that came up and asked about the hospital and our medical facilities,” said Zupancich. “When people are deciding whether to move here, the quality of our medical facilities is a factor.”<BR><BR>