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      USDA officials visit the new Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital

      The new Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital is taking shape in Thompson Township. It was funded by $22 million in direct loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

      On Thursday, USDA officials got a look at the progress.

      The new hospital will provide an opportunity for the community to retain more of its patients in Manistique without having to travel to another hospital.

      The new building is 50 percent completed. Itâ??ll replace the existing hospital in Manistique, which was built in the 1950s and is over 60 years old.

      â??Itâ??s very difficult to renovate a small hospital,â?? explains hospital CEO George Montgomery. â??It'd be easier to tear down one wing of a larger hospital, if needed, and open another one. With our current existing hospital, the only way to do it is to replace the entire hospital."

      There's been a lot of local investment in the new hospital, which will serve the people of Schoolcraft County and the surrounding service area.

      â??The reason the USDA is coming out today is because their loans are pretty much the only way that rural hospitals like ours can do this type of project. Larger hospitals can get taxes and bond financing, but small hospitals in small communities cannot," Montgomery says.

      The old hospital will be closed when the new building opens next year. Officials say all of the employees will be transferred to the new location.

      The entire hospital will be completed on or about February 27, 2013. Officials say patients will be in here in early to mid-March.