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ALBION – Albion community leaders and Oaklawn officials gathered for a ceremony Monday morning on B Drive North, to break ground for the new Oaklawn Dialysis Center of Albion.
The event was hailed as a significant step forward for Oaklawn as a regional health-care provider and for the Albion community’s health needs and economic outlook.
“The prospects are very bright,” said Albion City Manager Sheryl L. Mitchell. “This brings us the access to care our residents so desperately need, especially in light of the fact that our population has challenges in transportation.
“Having this right here in our own backyard is going to be a great asset,” Mitchell said. “It’s also going to bring some jobs and economic development. We’re truly appreciative and we look forward to the partnership.”
“The groundbreaking this morning is very exciting to us,” said Oaklawn President and CEO Ginger Williams. “We’re thrilled to bring this service to the patients in this area who need it. It’s especially exciting to bring this to a community that in turn is so excited to have us here. It’s very gratifying in all respects.”
Construction is to begin immediately on property at the Oaklawn Medical Group’s existing location at 300 B Drive North.
The new, 8,800-square-foot, 12-chair facility will serve patients throughout the Albion region, and will be owned by the Oaklawn Dialysis Center of Albion LLC, a new joint venture currently comprised of members of the Nephrology Center and Oaklawn Hospital, which will be the majority stakeholder.
“This is a very exciting opportunity,” said Valerie Duhn, M.D., who will serve as the clinic’s Medical Director. “Dialysis patients already face a lot of hardships, so being able to come to them rather than making them come to us three times a week is really a nice thing for the community.”
Nancy Johnson, R.N., director of operations at Fresenius, expressed the opinion that the service is likely to see rapid growth.
“The market area has a number of patients who already are traveling for services,” Johnson said. “The intent is that they won’t have to travel so far now. We have the capacity to increase to 16 chairs – plus, we will offer home dialysis as well.” The home dialysis component is not offered currently at the Oaklawn Dialysis Center in Marshall.
Dialysis is a life-saving treatment for people with end-stage renal failure when about 85 to 90 percent of kidney function is lost. It simulates kidney function by removing waste, salt and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in the blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate controlling blood pressure.
“We’re into community outreach, and Albion is an area that needs to be included,” said Oaklawn Chief Support and Ancillary Services Officer Sharon Boyd. “Too many people who need dialysis treatment have to travel now to receive help. This is our stepping-stone to the Albion community.”
“We couldn’t ask for anything better for Albion at this time,” said Albion Mayor Joe Domingo, citing the new project in conjunction with another imminent community plan involving construction of a new hotel. “Once we get moving on that, Albion will be doing a slow return. This [dialysis center] being right here is going to be a plus-plus for us.”
“This is absolutely tremendous,” said Mike Bearman, president of the Albion Board of Education and a Calhoun County commissioner. “This is a good way to start thinking. The whole east side of the county needs to start working together, pulling together to do things. If we all don’t work together, we’re all going to go down together.” Oaklawn and the Albion Public Schools will be working together on this project since their properties are directly connected to each other.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” said Peggy Sindt, president and CEO of the Albion Economic Development Corp. “Oaklawn is such a good corporate citizen and partner, and everything they do is first-class. Everything is positive.”
Construction cost is expected to be in the $3 million range, and will be managed by Albion’s own Gordon Martin Builders, said Oaklawn Assistant Director of Plant Operations Joanna Tarkiewicz. Construction will involve a heavy use of local contractors, she said.
The project is scheduled to be completed in the early winter, said Randy Fisher, president of Gordon Martin.
“We’ll have to see what Mother Nature deals us,” Fisher said. “If she’s nice to us, it’ll go well.”
In 2007, Oaklawn renovated and transformed a threatened historic building in downtown Marshall, which now operates as a dialysis center under the supervision of Fresenius Medical Care North America.
The Marshall facility is operating at near capacity and the opening of the Oaklawn Dialysis Center of Albion should provide additional scheduling options for patients in the Marshall and Battle Creek areas, Oaklawn officials said. The Marshall center will continue to be solely owned and operated by Oaklawn as it is now.