Thursday, April 26 was a bright and beautiful spring afternoon. Without a cloud in the sky or a snowflake on the ground, Eaton Rapids Medical Center couldn’t have picked a better day to hold an open house to reveal the newest addition to the Island City hospital. With a health fair and tours of the new facilities, hundreds of Eaton Rapids residents came out to see where the new family practice, physical therapy, and other transplanted sections would be.

The 25,000 square foot expansion was years in the making, according to ERMC CEO Tim Johnson. More space was needed for several years, and the addition went through several blueprint stages. Finally, in September 2016, ERMC broke ground for the $6 million expansion. A year and a half later, the Eaton Rapids community has an expanded hospital facility that will free up space for the inpatient and specialty clinics.

“We were looking to expand our outpatient areas, and take some pressure off the floor,” said Johnson. “Those other areas were not designed to be family practice.”

Family practice will be one of the occupants of the new facilities, along with mental and behavioral health, the rehabilitation department, a sleep center, and more. The addition has 33 exam rooms, 10 areas for physical therapy, and three rooms for behavioral health. Most of the equipment and decore had not yet been added by the April 26 open house, and it will take some time for the occupants to move in.

To Johnson, the benefits of the addition are almost immeasurable. The building will help recruit new physicians to the area, as it already has with Lowell Fernander and Jospeh Van Ark from Grand Ledge. Especially after the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid with Healthy Michigan, the hospital has seen a spike in local residents who have health insurance. The spike in itself necessitated more resources.

ERMC is a unique community resource for Eaton Rapids. More and more as community hospitals join larger hospital and healthcare networks, ERMC maintains its small town independence and continues to grow. Johnson sees the hospital expansion as a testament to that independence and growth.

“We want everyone to know that we’re independent and remaining that way,” said Johnson. “It’s exciting to be a part of an organization that is growing and expanding.”

ERMC celebrated the opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Eaton Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and will continue to show the new facilities with various organizational open house in the weeks to come.