A local medical organization soon will open a new dialysis center in southwest Wisconsin.

Grand River Medical Group recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for a Tri-State Dialysis location in Richland Center.

Justin Hafner, CEO of Grand River Medical Group, said this will be the fourth location for Tri-State Dialysis, a subsidiary of the medical group. The other locations are in Dubuque and Manchester, Iowa, and Platteville, Wis.

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Hafner said the decision to open the new dialysis center was prompted by a closure. After a different provider pulled out of the community, patients in the Richland Center area were left without a place to obtain their much-needed dialysis services. Many of them penned letters to Grand River asking the organization to fill the void.

Hafner said the group is proud to step in and open a new facility.

“We look at dialysis care as being able to provide critical health care to some of the most vulnerable people in the community,” Hafner said.

The new facility will be located at 190 N. Orange St. and should open in the spring. It will have the capacity to provide services to 20 patients. Center Pharmacy also will occupy a space within the new structure.

Dialysis purifies the blood in patients whose kidneys are not working normally. Patients spend a significant portion of time on dialysis.

“Most patients (come in for dialysis) three and a half to four hours, three times per week,” said John Whalen, a nephrologist with Grand River Medical Group. “For larger people, it can be even longer. We try to keep the patients as comfortable as we can.”

Whalen said patients have their own televisions and appropriate lighting so they can read during dialysis.

Whalen believes that residents from multiple surrounding counties will benefit from the new dialysis center, including those in Crawford, Grant and Iowa counties.

Hafner said demand for dialysis service is increasing at Grand River’s existing facilities. Meanwhile, providing these services has become increasingly complex during the pandemic, given the vulnerable nature of those receiving them.

The new facility underscores the desire of Grand River Medical Group to continue moving forward, even at a time when the coronavirus is providing new challenges.

“COVID is the immediate fire in front of us that we have to fight and we have to address,” Hafner said. “But we need to be prepared to address the care needs of everyone, regardless of (what the health issue) is. The journey to provide good health care doesn’t stop and end with COVID.”