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Hospital construction provides bang for buck

Staff writer

In numerous meetings since 2008, St. Luke Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Armstrong, Hutton Construction manager Dennis Preston, and Spangenburg Phillips Architects have worked on a plan to renovate and build around the hospital under the condition that the project stays under the slim margin of $5,923,103.

“Hillsboro is spending $10 million,” Armstrong said of Hillsboro Community Hospital’s plan for a new hospital.

With the new construction — phase one of the project — on schedule for completion Jan. 17, Armstrong released a “buy out” summary Dec. 28 to the Marion County Hospital District No. 1 Board of Directors. Locked into bids with contractors and subcontractors, the project was $12,672 under budget.

“We’ve gotten an awful lot for our money because we spent time with the architect and construction manager,” Armstrong said. “We worked together for an awful lot of hours to string the dollars together.”

One of the hospital’s first thought-out expenditures for the project was the final bid of $193,550 to Hett Construction of Marion for concrete foundations and ramps.

Although most of the concrete for the eastern and southern sections of the hospital was in place Thursday, Hett employees Tom Thomas and Drew Looper were busy installing the underground structure for the front entrance ramp.

The bid to Hett Construction ended up being $18,877 over budget because of complicated concrete procedures for the future physical therapy department, including the area around the hydrotherapy pool, Armstrong said.

The revitalized physical therapy department is one of the most important developments in the project for Armstrong. The facility will be six times larger than the current physical therapy area.

“You guys will need a GPS system to find everything,” Armstrong has joked with therapists.

The larger space will allow for new, larger equipment — including tread mills and exercise bikes — and for therapists to provide therapy that requires a larger range of motion.

Where the hospital saved money was for steel and steel erection, pocketing $69,476.

Red steel beams jut out of the east end of new construction like flares in the night sky. Eventually they will form the structure for an overhang at the front entrance of the hospital; a cosmetic change that Armstrong said will completely remake the image of the facility.

Another area Armstrong overestimated the cost was the installation of a hospital-wide sprinkler system. Originally estimated at $140,921, the actual bid to Whitewater Fire Sprinklers Inc. was $113,115.

“It’s been something we’ve wanted to add for a long time,” Armstrong said of the sprinkler system.

Other improvements outside of the normal view of patients are improved heating and cooling systems. In the next two weeks, every piece of the hospital’s old boiler will be carted away and a new heater will be lifted into a new building on the northwest end of the hospital campus.

The mechanical budget was the most expensive part of the project; the bid from Central Mechanical of Wichita was $1,166,000, which was $266,000 over budget.

“Those things cost a lot of money that no one ever sees,” Armstrong said but cautioned that he could not try to cut costs in that area. “You’ll end up paying for it in the end. They were all old and due for replacement for quite awhile.”

However, electrical work was under budget by $184,250. Elcon Electric of Hillsboro won the bid of $565,750.

Changes on the interior of the hospital will be more obvious. With an expanded lobby, patients will have access to a room to privately complete medical information.

“Any time you do a project like this you want to provide more privacy to patients,” Armstrong said.

The roof of the new buildings will be higher than the existing hospital roof. The ducts will be on top, providing more space indoors.

Every hospital operation will be expanded. Bigger operating and emergency rooms will be executed with space added in the southern building addition. Added inpatient and outpatient rooms and a larger nurse’s station will be part of the renovation.

Armstrong said the process will speed up when workers move indoors to start renovating the main hospital Jan. 17. The 20 to 25 construction workers will double to 40 or 50 by February. There may be as many as seven or eight contractors working on the project.

Armstrong and Chief Financial Officer Bev Reid will be some of the first hospital employees to forego their current offices. Armstrong’s office will become a hallway, connecting the east addition to the current hospital. He will work from an office across from the physician clinic while construction is in progress.

“I’m a creature of habit,” he said. “It will be a little different. I’ll be walking back and forth quite a bit more.”

As the renovation moves further west into the hospital, more employees will be forced from their normal working confines. The nurses’ station is in the wake of the second phase of inside construction. The nurses will be moved to a similar space close by.

Many employees will be moved and maybe even jostled a second time while the hospital is influx.

“We’re actually ahead of schedule for (knowing) where everybody is going to move,” Armstrong said. “The space will be tight.”

The space is already tight for equipment. A sterilizer the hospital purchased is setting dormant across from Armstrong’s office.

“We’ll look back in a year and laugh,” Armstrong said.

During construction, the hospital will contract its sterilization needs to Spur Ridge Veterinary Clinic and an area hospital.

In a more serious loss of space, while inpatient rooms are under construction, the hospital maybe faced with a situation where they may only have a room or two for incoming patients.

“A few days ago we had six patients (admitted),” Armstrong said. “Whenever they take rooms off line, we might not be able to handle six patients. We can double up, put two beds in each room. It will be our job to figure out how to accommodate patients.”

The intrusive nature of the construction is already starting to wear on physicians, nurses, and other employees. Armstrong has taken on the duty of keeping spirits high and reminding every one of the benefits when the project is finished.

“Don’t forget about the goal of taking care of patients to the best of our abilities,” Armstrong has said to hospital employees.

The hospital renovation is scheduled for completion Sept. 30.

Last modified Jan. 6, 2011

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