Taking shape: Hospital construction progressing around region

TUPELO – Hospital rooms for the future are coming into focus at three Northeast Mississippi hospitals.
Patients at OCH Regional Hospital in Starkville are already taking advantage of a new lobby and larger rooms with more space for families and medical equipment at OCH Regional Hospital in Starkville. The hospital opened into its newly constructed wing June 1.
“All of the people I’ve talked to have been very impressed,” said Mike Andrews, chief operations officer for OCH Regional. “They’re very proud of it; it’s a good investment.”
In Tupelo, construction crews are working on the first floor of five-story West Tower expansion at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.
Concrete for the first floor was completed last week, said Bruce Ridgway, NMMC vice president for facilities management.
“Even the hot weather hasn’t stopped them,” Ridgway said.
Oxford is a step closer to a completely new hospital after Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi finalized lease buyout and purchase of its existing building from the city and Lafayette County boards.
For all three hospitals, the projects address replacing decades-old patient rooms. Patients now expect in-room showers and space for family members to be comfortable; those are things that weren’t necessarily built into rooms 40 years ago.
There’s no crystal ball to exactly envision what medical equipment will be needed because medical technology is changing so rapidly, but hospital leaders know they will need space and high-tech infrastructure to handle them.
“It’s building in flexibility to meet the changes in the very dynamic health care industry over the next 50 years,” said Don Hutson, Baptist Memorial-North Mississippi chief executive.
Construction crews broke ground seven months ago on the West Bed Tower expansion that will parallel South Gloster Street, after seven years of planning and hundreds of meetings with hospital staff, physicians and community groups.
After excavating for the foundation and basement, workers have started pouring the concrete frame, which allows the hospital to align floors with the existing structure and make room for technology and building infrastructure, Ridgway said. Last week, workers finished pouring the first floor of the new wing. The project is considered 9 percent complete.
Although construction had already started when EF-5 tornado hit Joplin, Mo., this spring, NMMC has been able to incorporate lessons for the tornado-devastated hospital in Joplin, Mo.
To prevent a vacuum on the backside of a massive tornado from blowing out windows like it did in Joplin, NMMC is taking the extra step of anchoring the large exterior windows with additional adhesive.
“We made the decision after observing the tornado damage,” Ridgway said. “We can’t have that happen here.”
The expansion is on track to finish before 2013. Then crews will gut the existing west wing – even removing the exterior walls.
“There will be nothing left but the columns and the floors on the old bed tower,” Ridgway said. The renovation is expected to take a year to a year and half.
The end result will be 250 larger patient rooms with more room for patients, family, health care providers and medical equipment. Patients will be able to control TV, lights, blinds and room temperature from their bedside.
When the entire construction and renovation project is complete, half of NMMC-Tupelo’s patient rooms will be new spaces.
“That’s a good comfortable position going into the next 100 years,” Ridgway said.
The project will be paid for with money set aside annually by the private, not-for-profit health care system for capital improvements and financing, Ridgway said.
The Starkville hospital has a whole new face with the completion of its West Tower expansion. Patients and staff were able to move into the new spaces June 1, a month ahead of schedule. The lobby and waiting rooms are bright thanks to banks of windows. The new parking garage offers shelter for cars and has opened up parking in front of the hospital.
A first floor coffee shop, the Daily Dose, has been doing brisk business. Patients have larger rooms with more space for family.
Although the postpartum rooms are part of the renovation phase of the project, moms and babies have been able to take advantage of new nurseries and labor, delivery and recovery rooms.
“We’ll have fewer beds,” until the renovation is complete, Andrews said. “We’ve had a full house.”
There’s still a few finishing touches on the new building, but largely construction crews are working on renovating the north and old west wings on the second, third and fourth floors.
The interior walls have been removed and crews have started building new walls for the larger renovated rooms.
The intensive care unit will have a new home when the renovation is complete, said Mike Shelton, OCH Regional plant operation director and construction manager. There will be a dedicated ICU waiting room and hospitality suites to help out-of-town families.
The renovation is on track to be completed in January and hospital nursing units are slated to move in February. With the hospital’s south expansion and the current project, the hospital will have rebuilt all of the hospital’s clinical areas in the past three years.
“The old Hill-Burton hospital built in 1970 will have been pretty much renovated,” Shelton said.
The $32.8 million project was funded by bonds approved by Oktibbeha County voters in November 2008.
“None of this would have been possible without the community,” Andrews said.
Baptist Memorial
Baptist Memorial’s current 12-acre campus is too tight to allow the expansions that other hospitals have undertaken to update their decades-old patient rooms and infrastructure. The current hospital meets seismic codes, but changes in building requirements aimed at reducing earthquake damage won’t allow the hospital to go any higher, Hutson said.
Earlier this month, Baptist Memorial passed the first major milestone on the road to a new Oxford hospital. The Memphis-based system purchased the hospital it has operated since 1989 from the city of Oxford and Lafayette County.
“We’re excited to be at this stage,” Hutson said. The process of working with the city and county board resulted in an agreement that everyone is happy about.”
The estimated $300 million cost of building the new hospital – which will be financed by the Baptist Memorial system – includes the $60 million split between Oxford and Lafayette County for the purchase of the hospital and land acquisition costs.
Hutson anticipates announcing a site for the hospital by the end of the year. Under its agreement with city and county boards, the new hospital will be inside the city limits of Oxford.
“We have multiple sites to choose from,” Hutson said. “From those, we’ll choose the best site to support our goals.”
Once the site is selected and plans have been developed, the hospital will apply for a certificate of need. The certificate of need process, overseen by the Department of Health, requires that hospitals and other health care providers justify major projects and equipment purchases and show the demand for them.
In all, Hudson estimates the hospital will be ready to start construction in about two years.
“From the time we break ground to the time we occupy will be about three years,” Hutson said. “We’re moving expeditiously,” however, “we don’t necessarily control all the variables.”
Based on early study of the hospital and projected growth in the region, Hutson said he anticipates the new hospital will have an expanded emergency services, diagnostic areas, intensive care and surgery areas. There are no plans to grow beyond 217 patient rooms in the immediate future, but the flexibility to grow would be built into the new hospital.
“The next step is to work with the Center for Health Care Planning to reconfirm our expectations,” Hutson said.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

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