People who need advanced wound care can soon be treated closer to home.

The Northfield Hospital and Clinics Board of Directors on Thursday moved ahead with developing a wound healing care program. In doing so, the board agreed to contract with wound care company Healogics to develop the program, and to move ahead with design documents and construction bids to build the department. Healogics is an organization with more than 650 centers dedicated to advanced wound care. It operates two other facilities in Minnesota, in Glencoe and Windom.

The plan is to construct the hyperbaric oxygen wound chambers for a little more than $700,000. The chambers, estimated at a total of 1,000 square feet, would be below the existing birthing center and would have a separate entrance on the east side of the building.

“The key value of a wound healing program is that it would bring strong benefits to the community: Individuals with chronic and hard-to-heal wounds get an option close to home for this highly specialized care that usually requires multiple visits for treatment,” said CEO/President Steve Underdahl.

Nearly 6.7 million people nationwide are estimated to have chronic wounds they need to monitor/manage. The healing process typically includes cleaning the wound, replacing skin and then involving the hyperbaric chambers in intense oxygen therapy. Such treatment is typically prescribed by clinicians after doctor or hospital visits.

Architects are expected to meet within three to four weeks to finalize designs and capture state approval. Construction is expected to be completed in February. Before that, officials hope to market the service and inform local groups to attract patients.

Chief Financial Officer Scott Edin said hospital officials expect patients to visit from the surrounding area, including Farmington, Lakeville, Lonsdale, Faribault and Cannon Falls — an area with a total population of 158,000. Within that area, Edin anticipates there to be 200 annual patients initially, with that number soon approaching approximately 350 new patients per year.

Edin estimated the first-year profit could near $100,000. The program director is expected to cost $122,000, with Healogics and NH+C evenly splitting the cost. Healogics is expected to cover the cost of the hyperbaric chambers — $270,000. The company is also expected to train staff on wound care and hyperbaric chambers.

Edin said by installing the chamber, NH+C would have a service that many hospitals are missing. It is estimated that once a patient is determined to need those services, they’ll visit the facility three to five times a week for four to six weeks.

Underdahl said when he was vice president of operations at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, more patients were drawn locally than from outside health providers.

It’s unknown how COVID-19 will impact initial use numbers. Right now, the pandemic is hampering visits for non-related reasons, but more people are visiting the hospital as restrictions are loosened across the state.

Underdahl said he doesn’t see wound care patients as being more susceptible to upper respiratory disease than the general population.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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