Nine years ago, Mike Thesing was lying in a bed on the rehabilitation floor at Immanuel Medical Center, unable to even scratch his nose after a serious spinal cord injury.
Today, as a member of the hospital's Charitable Council, Thesing is helping to raise $2.5 million toward an $11 million renovation and expansion of the hospital's inpatient rehab center. Alegent Health, which runs the hospital, has committed to funding the other $8.5 million.
Such a project at the sprawling hospital complex near 72nd Street and Sorensen Parkway might surprise some of the people who for the past few weeks have called the hospital to find out when it's going to close.
Last month, officials at Alegent Health, which runs 10 area hospitals, announced that Catholic Health Initiatives would become the system's sole sponsor. Since 1996, when Alegent began operating, Catholic Health Initiatives and a group called simply “Immanuel” have been 50-50 sponsors.
Immanuel, which is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said it would focus on nonhospital elder care.
But because Immanuel — the sponsoring group, not the hospital — said it was ending its 125-year mission of hospital care in Omaha, some people erroneously took that to mean that the hospital was closing.
“Our patients are calling and canceling their surgeries,” Ann Schumacher, Immanuel Medical Center's chief operating officer, said late last month. “They're saying, ‘You're closing. I guess I have to find another provider. Where should I go?'
“We have to get it straight that we're not going anywhere ... We actually have a lot of the key programs that will help Alegent move into the future.”
Immanuel Medical Center is known for its rehabilitation center, which treats patients with brain and spinal cord injuries, amputations, severe trauma and strokes, and both inpatient and outpatient behavioral health care. Schumacher said the hospital also stands out for its comprehensive weight management program, its cancer center and its Back and Spine Institute, which includes the Nebraska Spine Hospital on the medical center's campus.
It also has the city's third-busiest emergency department, behind only the Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University Medical Center, which have the city's two designated trauma centers.
“Immanuel has an important role,” said Glenn Fosdick, president and CEO of the Nebraska Medical Center, a competitor. “They provide a lot of care to a population that needs care very badly,” referring to the northern part of the city and Douglas County.
Tom Townsend, rescue captain with the Irvington Volunteer Fire Department, said he and others in the group heard the rumors about the medical center closing but quickly dismissed them.
“It wouldn't make any sense to do that,” he said. “It's too new and too utilized a resource for the community.”
The present Immanuel Medical Center building opened in 1974. The Irvington department takes “90-plus percent” of its injured or ill patients there, Townsend said.
“Bennington, Ponca Hills, Fort Calhoun — this is their hospital,” Townsend said.
Richard Hachten, Alegent's president and CEO, said Alegent is “continuing to invest in programs there. We're continuing to serve, particularly north Omaha, in many, expanded ways.
“Immanuel is alive and well and is an extremely valued part of the Alegent organization — and will continue to be.”
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