New rehabilitation hospital set to open in mid-June

June 1, 2020

The first patient is scheduled to be admitted June 15 at the new Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital in southwest Sioux Falls.

The 40-bed hospital is on 69th Street east of Solberg Avenue and was hit hard by a tornado last September. Construction largely stayed on track though, only delaying the opening by a couple of weeks.

“We focus on therapy. That’s what we do. That’s our niche, and we do it very well,” said Michael O’Keefe, CEO of the Sioux Falls hospital. He previously spent about a decade at Avera St. Luke’s in Aberdeen.

Alabama-based Encompass is the nation’s largest in-patient rehabilitation hospital, marking 136 locations with the opening in Sioux Falls.

It will serve patients who are recovering from conditions such as strokes and other neurological disorders, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations, complex orthopedic conditions, and cardiac and pulmonary conditions.

Patients are referred by physicians, generally following an event such as a stroke, injury, surgery or lengthy hospital stay where therapy is required before they can go home.

“So we will work closely with the acute care systems to build relationships with them to refer patients, including Orthopedic Institute, so those will be our three primary referrals – Avera, Sanford and OI – and we are vastly different from what’s available in the market.”

Both Avera and Sanford offer in-patient rehabilitation on their main campuses.

“The options (for patients) are they can go to the individual unit at Avera or Sanford, which is a good option, or a skilled nursing facility,” O’Keefe said. “With Encompass we have another layer. What we provide is a much more intense therapy at a different level and quality than you would receive at a nursing home.”

The average length of stay for a therapy patient is about two weeks. Patients wear their own clothes and on average receive three hours of therapy a day.

“We have physicians on site every day rounding on our patients, and we work with an interdisciplinary approach with our physicians and our clinical team of nurses, our pharmacists — they all talk about our patients every day,” O’Keefe said.

Encompass also will provide options for rehabilitating some patients who previously had to go out of state, he said.

“From brain injuries to spinal cord injuries, those often get sent to Omaha or Minneapolis,” he said. “We will be able to take care of those now in our market.”

An advanced therapy gym includes new technology in the market, including harness equipment that simulates a fall for recovering patients “to take some of that anxiety away without them ever getting injured.”

An outdoor therapy area offers patients the chance to walk on different surfaces.

“We’ll take our patients outside and have them go up a ramp if they have a ramp to go into their home. They will walk on gravel, pavement, blacktop with a manhole cover, small curbs, paver patios, all these surfaces,” O’Keefe said.

“That’s what makes people nervous. So we’ll take them through that as often as we can to get them comfortable with being able to go home.”

Patients also will practice cooking, cleaning and dining skills in a simulated area to mimic daily tasks.

A simulated game allows for practice with things such as opening a door, turning a key or holding a glass.

A mock vehicle can be adjusted to the height of whatever the patient drives.

There’s also a cafe where patients and families can dine together.

“We really encourage that ‘out and about’ mentality,” O’Keefe said. “We want our patients to know it’s a short stay and their end goal is to get home and back to what they were doing prior to the event that brought them to us.”

Encompass has hired about 75 people and will ramp up to more than 200 as patients fill the hospital.

“We’re progressing great at this point,” O’Keefe said. “Beds are set up, our therapy gym is set up, and our staff are being trained on some of the high-end equipment they haven’t worked on before. We’ll be actively hiring from now until we reach full census, from nursing to therapy to environmental services, cooks, the whole spectrum.”

The Sioux Falls campus is set up so it could be expanded to 80 beds.

“That’s obviously my goal, and if the need is there and we’re providing the great service we’re going to do, let’s take care of 80,” O’Keefe said.

Encompass nationwide has taken precautions related to COVID-19 similar to other hospitals and has helped some COVID-19 patients regain strength before going home.

“There’s data coming out that post-COVID and when they’re doing their recovery that therapy is important,” O’Keefe said. “And even non-COVID, an ICU patient in there for something whether it’s pneumonia or flu and they have been there two weeks, to have five, six, seven days of our therapy really boosts their health to go back and not have additional assistance.”

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New rehabilitation hospital set to open in mid-June

The first patient is scheduled to be admitted June 15 at the new Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital in southwest Sioux Falls.

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