Hospice of Washington County breaks ground on new building after years of flooding issues

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 11:00 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, Iowa (KCRG) - After years of fundraising and floods, a million-dollar project has finally broken ground in Washington County.

Construction is slated to begin next week for Hospice of Washington County’s new building. The basement of the hospice’s current building floods each year after heavy rainfall.

“I think it happened five times last year,” Executive Director Katrina Altenhofen said.

“In my time here, we have lived through many floods — probably the highest, up to calf level,” Assistant Executive Director Jina Witthoft added.

It got to the point at which staff ripped out the carpet last year and didn’t replace it and drilled holes to keep drywall from molding.

But flooding — and other issues, like uneven heating and cooling — should not be a concern for much longer.

“We really would like to see them into the building here towards the end of this year and at the latest, the beginning of next year,” said Diana Wubbena, the building’s project manager from McCreedy-Ruth Construction.

While the new building will be on the same land as the current hospice, it will be built to prevent flooding.

“We wanted to design the building so we didn’t really have to deal with these water issues anymore, so part of that was to demolish the existing portion of the building where the problems are. We are keeping a portion of the building where there isn’t a basement and they aren’t having any trouble at all and then just expanding on to that,” Wubbena said.

Altenhofen said the new space features a larger conference room and more ability to host the community for training and classes, in addition to the services they already offer their patients.

“We do not charge our patients for anything, whether that’s music therapy, massage therapy, nutritional supplements, nothing,” she said. “It is no cost to the family or the patients.”

Wednesday’s groundbreaking included cheers and celebration as well as hugs and tears of joy from staff who care for each other as much as the patients they serve.

“It’s been challenging to work here, so knowing that we’re finally going to get to work in an environment that we deserve to work in to take care of our people is amazing,” Senior Clinical Nurse Sandi Smith said.

“Yeah. It’s a gift,” Witthoft added. “It really is. It’s a gift.”

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