BLACKFOOT — The finishing touches are being applied to the Syringa Chalet Nursing Facility at State Hospital South with the facility expected to be ready for full use by Sept. 28.

SHS officials gave a tour of the new facility Sept. 9 with hospital Administrator Jim Price being very pleased with the progress that’s been made.

The new facility will be licensed and accredited for 36-42 beds when it opens and eventually will be licensed and have the capacity to increase to 59 beds to meet the needs of Idaho’s aging population. The older facility which was constructed in 1938 can handle 29 residents. It was originally used as a medical clinic and surgical hospital and was later retro-fitted to become a skilled nursing home. The building was originally used as a medical clinic and surgical hospital.

Price said this is the first new facility at SHS since 1988.

“In a word, it’s wonderful,” Price said of the opening of the new facility. “A lot of work hours have gone into this. The whole thing is just amazing.”

“It’s really like a dream come true,” said Tamara Gillins, nursing facility administrator. “This is a tribute to the people of Idaho who care about the most vulnerable population. On top of that, we have a competent, caring staff and that makes all the difference.”

Construction on the facility cost around $35 million including architecture and engineering, construction, permits, equipment, furniture, capitalized interest for the bond, and demolition of the existing nursing home.

The state legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 140 in 2018 authorizing the Department of Health and Welfare to enter into an agreement with the state Building Authority to obtain bond financing for the facility. The bonds were issued in the fall of 2018.

Ground was broken on the 55,000-square-foot facility in May of last year.

The facility is bright and cheerful with large windows and an open floor plan. The nurse’s station is strategically placed in the center of the facility so nurses and technicians can see down three hallways and into a spacious dining room and lounge area.

The dining room has a tray line which will add to meal options or a quick snack, Gillins said. Off the lounge is a gated patio with walkways so residents can get out and enjoy the outdoors with gardens and a barbecue grill for social activities, she added.

There is a physical therapy room with state-of-the-art equipment. A gym with a basketball court and workout area is featured. There is a large theater room, a kitchen/craft room, a beauty shop, and the Syringa Boutique with donated clothing and other items.

The facility has 11 semi-private rooms and 37 private rooms, with even the semi-private rooms giving residents more individual living space with their own sink. For residents who have dementia or are a high fall risk, there is the ability to control the water for the shower with a keyed lock located in the hall outside each room.

The memory of the late Tracey Sessions — a hospital administrator at SHS for nine years who was instrumental in getting funding for the facility approved — is found in the artwork that was financed by the Sessions Trust. Photography is also prominent in the facility with photos taken by administrators and staff.