By Sara Konrad Baranowski

June 6, 2012

Tuesday signaled the start of a new era of health care in Hardin County as more than 100 people gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking for a new Ellsworth Municipal Hospital.

The new hospital — a $30 million project — will be built on land south of Iowa Falls along Highway 65. While the path to this week’s celebration wasn’t easy, those involved said it was well worth the effort.

“It’s been challenging in a very positive way,” said EMH CEO Cherelle Montanye. “I think what is so impressive is it truly was a county-wide group of people that participated at all levels to make this happen. That’s what feels so good today.”

The official ceremony involved shiny new shovels and bright white hard hats. Nearly two dozen people stepped up to heave mounds of dirt and celebrate the start of the project. Representatives of the city of Iowa Falls, Hardin County, the Core Campaign, the medical staff, the Ellsworth Community College nursing program, the EMH Board of Trustees, EMH Foundation, Hardin County Community Endowment Foundation, the Vote Yes PAC, EMH employees, the EMH Auxiliary and youth and family donors all broke ground on the project. They were led by the Jeff and Deb Hansen family, who pledged $1.5 million to the project.

EMH Board Chairman Steve Howard spoke of the history of local health care. “In 1902, E.O. Ellsworth donated $14,000 to the construction of a new hospital in Iowa Falls,” Howard said. “There were other local citizens who followed suit and that entire hospital was built on local donations.”

The new hospital will be built using a variety of funding. Iowa Falls and Hardin County are lending $5 million and $20 million, respectively, in bonding capacity to the project. Those funds will be repaid using hospital revenue. The remaining cost of the project is being paid by $6.8 million in donations and pledges from individuals, families and businesses.

EMH Board and Core Campaign member Mike Stensland spoke Tuesday of the fundraising effort.

“It is widely known across the state of Iowa that our community has a history of supporting itself through generous giving and community service,” Stensland said. “We all know the examples in the recent years of how giving has been a big part of our community for the greater good. The names and the faces of those folks are on buildings around town and we seem to rely on the same folks quite often, but now we have this next en­deavor. “In this partnership for a new hospital, those who have walked the path before invited others to join them on the journey. We built this new partnership across county boundaries and across generations.”

Several speakers also acknowledged the
importance of last November’s reverse referendum to approve $20 million in county bonding.

“One thing that I think maybe that we have forgotten or the one thing we’ve pushed into the background is . . . how important it was that we all got out and voted,” Howard said. “We all remember how close that was and how critical each and every vote was to make this project successful.”

The measure, which needed 60 percent to pass, received 60.05 percent of the vote in Hardin County. After the ceremony, Howard said the perseverance of those involved in the project made the groundbreaking emotional. “I think of all the time we’ve spent and the ups and downs and the obstacles that we encountered along the way,” he said. “So many times it would have been easy to throw in the towel and say this isn’t going to happen.”

Work at the site will begin the week of June 25, with hopes of getting walls erected before winter. A grand opening is tentatively scheduled for early 2014.

For further information contact Sara at


Ellsworth Municipal Hospital’s Board of Trustees

broke ground Tuesday after years of planning for a

new hospital.  (left to right) Francis Fritz, Diana

Ruhl, Mike Stensland, Steve Howard and Amanda


520 Rocksylvania Avenue, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126,
Office 641-373-3455 or 877-648-5549, Fax 641-648-3702