St. Luke's will close old Methodist budiling
This is the old Methodist hospital building which will close Sept. 1.

Nurse Lori Hansen remembers about 25 years ago when women came to the former Methodist Hospital building to deliver babies at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center.

She said she had to push some of those women through an underground tunnel to St. Luke's main building for emergency C-sections.

"You ran as fast as you could pushing a bed," she recalled.

St. Luke's was formed in 1966 when Sioux City's Methodist and Lutheran hospitals merged.

Over at the old Methodist -- which became St. Luke's West Building -- women went through labor in one room, delivered in another, recovered four hours in another and stayed four or five days longer in yet another. Now they have to do a lot less moving since St. Luke's brought its birthing unit to the main building in 1979.

More recently, old Methodist housed Meals on Wheels, hospital business offices and the county morgue. But this summer even they have packed their bags, for St. Luke's plans to close the 80-year-old building on Sept. 1, said Christie Finnegan, hospital spokeswoman.

St. Luke's already razed the old Lutheran Hospital -- then the East Building -- in 2002. It built in its place Physician Center II and the ambulatory surgery center.

Now Methodist is the oldest building on campus, and St. Luke's can close that facility and still have plenty of room to meet its needs, according to Finnegan. She said St. Luke's has been planning to close Methodist for almost two years.

"It doesn't make sense to upgrade it when we have a brand new building," she said. "We're just looking at right-sizing our campus."

Methodist used to house a couple of classrooms and a lab for St. Luke's College, but the college consolidated its facilities last year at 2616 Pierce St. And the college no longer offers housing as St. Luke's closed the dorms next to the old Methodist this spring.

As for Meals on Wheels, it moved Friday to Siouxland Aging Services at 2301 Pierce St. This program offers lunch for the elderly who are homebound or unable to prepare their own meals.

Siouxland Aging Services has directed Meals on Wheels for years, but it never had an adequate kitchen to make its own lunches. So it contracted with the city's two hospitals to each prepare 100 meals every weekday.

But now the agency has a proper kitchen, and it is required by law to provide its own meals if it can do so for the lowest cost. When it came time this summer for the agency to renew its contract with St. Luke's, it found it could prepare its own lunches for less money, said Lynn Haugen, the agency's nutrition director.

"We don't have any problems with our relationship with them," Haugen said. "They were very good to us throughout the years."

For now Siouxland Aging Services will continue contracting half of its meals with Mercy Medical Center -- Sioux City.

When it comes to the morgue, Finnegan said long-term planning is still under way regarding where to put the county's morgue for autopsies.

As for the old Methodist building, St. Luke's does not have plans to raze it yet, according to Finnegan. For a while it will remain there empty.

Years ago the old Methodist housed St. Luke's first neonatal intensive care unit. The unit moved to its current location in 1979, and this week will move again into improved facilities.

But St. Luke's nurses said they'll always have fond memories of the Methodist nursery where some delivered babies themselves about 25 years ago.

"That's a good old building," said Peggy Mace, manager for labor and delivery. "I'm going to be sad to see it go."

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