NMMC maaestro

Navigating the NMMC

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

Finding your way around the massive complex of buildings, corridors and levels that make up the main campus of the 650-bed North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo can be difficult in the best of times and a visit to the hospital is rarely the best of times.

“These people have a lot on their minds,” Bruce Ridgway, NMMC’s vice president for construction and facility maintenance, says of visitors and patients at the hospital.

Compound that distraction by starting a $28 million construction project that will necessitate closing the hospital’s main entrance and you have the problem faced by Ridgway and the construction planners: how to get people into the building and direct them where they need to go.

“We have about 10 projects going on right now that we have to have in place before the big project begins,” Ridgway said of work to reroute both pedestrian and motor traffic around the campus while the two-year construction project is under way.

The project, which will add about 85,000 square feet to the south facade of the existing hospital on Garfield Street, will require closing the main entrance to the facility around July 16. The main entrance will reopen when the project is complete with a major facelift facilitated in part by a $450,000 donation by the hospital auxiliary.

“We have 2,500 visitors coming through the front door every day and three times that many patients so we want to make (the main entrance) more reflective of the largest hospital in the state of Mississippi,” Ridgway said.

In the meantime, visitors and patients will have to use separate, temporary entrances to the hospital on the east and west sides.

“We built a temporary corridor that goes all the way out to the west face and built a parking lot,” Ridgway said of the new entry point for all inpatient admissions and discharges located on the west side of the hospital facing Gloster Street.

Visitors to the hospital will enter through the East Tower near the outpatient and emergency room entrances.

To better get people to their destinations, a manned security hut will be placed at the main driveway entrance off Garfield Street.

“When they come in off Garfield Street they will be greeted by a security officer who will direct them either to visitor parking or to the admissions and discharge area,” Ridgway said.

Once visitors enter the East Tower, however, they still must cross the entire length of the interior complex to reach the patient bed areas on the hospital’s west side.

“We’ve done a number of things to ease the process,” Ridgway said. “When (visitors) get on the elevator, there will be a recorded message that comes on and tells them to exit on the first floor for patient rooms or exit on the ground floor to leave the building. When they get off the elevator on the first floor, we’ll have signs five feet (up the wall) and every 10 feet down the building. All they have to do is follow the arrows.”

For those physically unable to walk the distance from the new visitor entrance to the patient area, two golf cart-type shuttles will be operated during daytime hours.

Other changes necessitated by the building project include moving the gift shop from the main lobby to the East Tower and rerouting the drive to the visitor/outpatient/emergency area through the upper level of the existing front parking lot.

While that will result in the loss of parking space, Ridgway points out that two 70-lot parking areas have recently been opened, including the new one in front of the temporary admissions and discharge area.

Another change that will take place as part of the preparation for the construction that will add new cardiac surgery areas and new intensive care waiting areas is installation of high-tech revolving doors at the new visitors entrance and the entrances to the outpatient admissions area and emergency room.

The doors, which creep around under their own power and have elaborate sensors to ensure no one gets pinched or crushed, were added to cure a problem with the old sliding doors. There was so much traffic coming through the old doors that the outpatient and emergency areas were essentially open to the weather at all times.

“Last year it got so bad we thought we were going to have to issue blankets,” Ridgway said of the temperatures in the winter.