Columbus, NE: Brookestone Acres

When city officials and representatives from Vetter Health Services Inc. gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony 20 months ago, Jack Vetter, the company’s CEO, boldly told the crowd the open field would become “one of the finest” rehabilitation centers in eastern Nebraska.  His vision for the 19-acre site at the corner of 38th Street and 48th Avenue is nearly a reality.

The Elkhorn-based company plans to open the doors at Brookestone Acres Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation next month, capping off a $17 million project that started in October 2012.

Vetter Health Services is planning another celebratory event July 25, when a public ribbon-cutting will be held at the property just south of Columbus Community Hospital. Residents will begin moving into the new 80-bed rehabilitation and long-term care facility four days later.  The company, which has a total of 31 health-care facilities, including 22 in Nebraska, first targeted Columbus in the early 1990s, but the state’s Certificate of Need law prevented Vetter Health Services from building here.  “We’ve always felt that Columbus would be a great community and a great match” for the skilled nursing format offered by Vetter Health Services, said Mitch Elliott, the company’s chief development officer.  “We felt that there was a strong market need,” he said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be developing in Columbus.”

That need already is apparent at Brookestone Acres, where some 40 names are on the waiting list for rooms.  Elliott said the 72,000-square-foot building is expected to operate as a 40-bed facility until there are enough residents to utilize the remaining rooms.

A master plan includes the addition of 40 more beds, taking the total to 120, but Elliott said an expansion likely won’t occur for at least a couple of years.  “It’s all determined by market need,” he said.  The current building is divided into two 40-bed “neighborhoods” and four 20-resident “households” aimed at creating an intimate setting that allows residents and staff members to better engage with each other.

The building was designed with the same philosophy in mind.

Vetter Health Services used a farmhouse theme for Brookestone Acres, which includes a functional bell tower, wraparound front porch and dedicated chapel with stained glass removed from a church in Denison, Iowa. “We found this is really important for this age group,” Elliott said of the chapel used strictly for spiritual activities. “They want that familiarity.”  Brookestone Acres also features a centralized physical therapy gym and multipurpose “great room” near the front entrance that will host community events and educational classes, as well as serve as a gathering place for residents to watch Nebraska football games or enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.  Elliott said the facility is designed mainly for Medicare-eligible seniors, but the company does have agreements with private insurance carriers.

The short-term rehabilitation is focused on returning patients to their homes following medical procedures such as hip or knee replacements or incidents including heart attacks or strokes.  The average length of stay for short-term rehab patients is 26-30 days, according to Elliott.  Vetter Health Services also plans to build at least two duplex-style cottages for independent senior living on the Brookestone Acres property.  The master plan includes eight independent living cottages, with 16 total units. A decision on whether to move forward with that expansion will also be based on demand.  “Our primary focus was to really launch the skilled nursing and rehabilitation center to begin with,” said Elliott.

Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce President K.C. Belitz, who was at the groundbreaking ceremony in late 2012, views the Brookestone Acres project as a positive step forward for the city. “The Vetter firm has worked to enter the Columbus market for some period of time, and we appreciate their patience and commitment to making it happen,” he said.  “Given the strong track record of Vetter’s facilities, we’re sure they will be successful here as well and add more needed options for families in our region,” Belitz added.

Brookestone Acres will employ about 120 people when the facility is at full capacity.


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