COLUMBUS — A simple square stone slab engraved with "Stillwater Billings Clinic 2012" was the culmination of five years' worth of work on Sunday afternoon.
After a worker slathered the inside of a shallow, square hole on the building's exterior with mortar and officials pushed in the slab, it marked the final piece of construction on the brand-new Stillwater Billings Clinic, which held a grand-opening ceremony on Sunday and opens to the community on Monday.
"You put up with us in that old building for a long time and it served us well," said Tim Russell, the clinic's CEO, referring to the 60-year-old medical facility the new building replaces. "This is the one time in a small community like this that we can say we have a state-of-the-art facility."
Stillwater Billings Clinic includes an expanded emergency department, a fully upgraded radiology department, laboratory services, an emergency helipad and rehabilitation services.
Sunday's open house and ribbon cutting ceremony was held a year to the day after construction crews broke ground on the new building, at 710 N. 11th St.
More than 100 people came to the 37,000-square-foot, $16 million facility on Sunday to check out the new building themselves and chat with hospital officials.
"It's a great addition to the community," said Gary Woltermann, Columbus' mayor. "We've had medical services here for years but this brings it all together."
The new hospital joins Billings Clinic with the Stillwater Hospital Association, which will act as its governing body with a few Billings Clinic representatives on the board of directors, bringing all of the medical resources under one roof.
It will serve as a medical hub for communities all over Stillwater County, with support from Billings Clinic, and includes an adjacent outpatient clinic. Russell said the hospital will have a combined staff of 65 people, including a pair of physicians at the primary clinic.
Dr. Nick Wolter, Billings Clinic CEO, said integrating the physician clinic with the hospital — and the new facility itself — will increase the quality of care throughout Stillwater County, strengthen financial stability, bring physicians closer to the people who need them and streamline operations, cutting out things like duplication of services.
"It's really, we think, the right balance with this partnership," he said.
After thanking the community, the staff, Billings Clinic and everyone else involved in building the hospital, Dr. David Kane, chief of staff, said it can also be a point of pride for Columbus and the surrounding communities.
"This is not just a beautiful building," he told the crowd gathered at the ceremony. "It's our new home."
While the large hospitals and resources in Billings are just a short drive away, officials said that having another affiliate facility in Columbus, which is a hub in Stillwater County and sits just off of Interstate 90, is a boon for the area and allows for the sharing of expertise and resources with the nearby Billings Clinic..
"Time is of the essence," Woltermann said. "If I'm having a heart attack or another emergency, I'd rather be five minutes away than 50 minutes away."