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Ground broken for expansion of Washington rehab center

| Friday, June 25, 2010

The largest county-owned senior home in Washington County broke ground yesterday on a $1.2 million expansion of its rehabilitation center.

The new wing at the Washington County Health Center will add 5,000 square feet for physical, occupational and speech therapy. The center, which provides short-term rehabilitation and long-term nursing care for seniors, has 288 beds. Construction is expected to be completed in February.

"It's going to be one of the most modern therapy gyms they can go to," said administrator Nancy Shoun-Few.

The wing will provide space for a whirlpool tub for hydrotherapy, weights for physical therapy and a kitchen for occupational therapy. The open design will allow for more interaction between therapists.

"Therapists always dream of working in an area like this," therapy manager Mark Froelich said. "And they're actually going to provide it."

Much of the center's work involves rehabilitating seniors so they can go home as soon as possible. Of the 463 patients admitted last year, about 300 were discharged, according to social service director Deborah Batley.

"The rehab itself has taken off so well, we ran out of space," said Michelle Manni, who works in admissions in the social services department.

"As soon as someone walks in our door, we're geared for discharge," she said.

The center, which opened more than 30 years ago, primarily was a place for long-term care in the past. The focus gradually shifted to rehabilitation services during the past 10 to 15 years, but Batley said the old image lingers.

"We're always fighting the stigma of the 'county home,' " Batley said. "We're not the poor farm."

State Sen. Barry Stout, D-Eighty Four, who helped secure a grant for the expansion, broke his pelvis a few years ago, and checked into the center for rehab.

"I was very impressed," he said. But he was surprised it didn't have all the space it needed.

Shoun-Few said the expansion will take care of that.

"For anybody that's coming in, it's going to be spacious and state-of-the-art," she said.

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