Changing places: New hospital site stirs mixed feelings for residents

FARGO - Nick Geray had to take his wife to the emergency room at the new Sanford hospital in southwest Fargo on the first day it opened.She was having some complications after a surgery, Geray said.But instead of driving from his home in north Fa...
Emergency services at Sanford Health downtown were moved on July 25, 2017, to a new hospital at 5225 23rd Ave. S. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO - Nick Geray had to take his wife to the emergency room at the new Sanford hospital in southwest Fargo on the first day it opened.

She was having some complications after a surgery, Geray said.

But instead of driving from his home in north Fargo to a hospital nearby, he drove 20 minutes across town.

Geray is one of many Fargo residents adapting to the July 25 opening of the Sanford hospital at 5225 23rd Ave. S. With the opening, emergency services transitioned from the Sanford at 801 Broadway to the new medical center.

"It's inconvenient ... but I think it's dangerous, too," Geray said. "We have a good ambulance service, and there's no doubt about that, but an ambulance can't provide the same services as an ER."

Paul Fellbaun, who lives a few streets over, agrees with Geray.

"I don't know why they couldn't have kept an ER here, too," Fellbaun said. "If I have to use it now, it's like, can I catch a flight to the new hospital?"

Nate White, executive vice president of Fargo's Sanford region, acknowledged that an ambulance drive from north Fargo would be longer than one from West Fargo. But he said the new hospital's location right off Interstate 94 helps with response times regardless of where a person lives in Fargo.

"Since we cover the entire county and even the region, being this close to the interstate is a positive," White said, explaining that the "ease of access and entry from the interstate" helps ambulances reach the hospital faster.

While Geray is concerned about the distance to the new hospital, he acknowledges that no noise from air ambulance helicopters and fewer sirens has "been a little nice."

"That was a daily ongoing thing," Fellbaun said. "It's a good thing ... not being interrupted by the noise all the time."

Geray noted that the parking situation remains the same, with the vehicles of Sanford's downtown employees filling the streets near his home.

"We've always had parking issues," Geray said.

"It's been the same on this street," Fellbaun added. "It's full right away in the morning and all day."

Fellbaun, who battled both lung cancer and a brain tumor, said that although the ER was moved, he's grateful that the cancer center is staying downtown and he won't have to travel for checkups.

"That's my lucky part," Fellbaun said.

New neighborhood adjusts

While north Fargo residents continue to get used to the new site of Sanford's southwest emergency services, Lori and Jeff Baumann are adjusting to the new 1-million-square-foot hospital across the interstate from their home.

"It's beautiful to look at," Lori said of the building.

"And it's a boost for businesses," Jeff said. "I think it's going to be good for our community."

Lori said she and her husband love watching the helicopters take off and land, adding that the noise doesn't bother them anymore. And the idea of an ER so close to home is "kind of nice if something were to happen," Lori said.

Just down the street, a neighbor of the Baumanns has a different opinion. Jennifer Anderson doesn't like the new hospital location, citing ambulance and helicopter noise as two main drawbacks.

She said four years of construction has made noise almost constant, and the building ruined the view from her home.

"There wasn't a lot of thought on their end about how it would affect this neighborhood," Anderson said.

While White acknowledges that noise is one consequence of a hospital, regardless of its location, he said the helicopter landing pad faces the interstate so that noise is limited.

For both Anderson and the Baumanns, heavy road traffic is a concern, but they all say that traffic hasn't been too bad so far.

White agrees that traffic's been manageable, adding that there's sufficient parking spaces at the new hospital so streets are not congested.

"The city of Fargo has done a real nice job in terms of laying out this area in anticipation of a new hospital," White said. "The impact on our neighbors out here is considerably less than anything downtown."