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Hospital renovation plans taking shape

District to avoid tax increase, referendum

Managing editor

The board of directors of Hospital District 1 will take a couple of road trips this week to see architectural designs of two Kansas hospitals.

The board has selected Health Facilities Group and Spangenberg Phillips Architecture, both Wichita firms, as finalists to design renovations to St. Luke Hospital and Living Center, Marion.

Plans include updating and expanding specific departments of the hospital.

“We wanted to stay on the same site,” administrator Jeremy Armstrong said. “The board struggled with the decision with us being land-locked, but in the end determined this location was best.”

Armstrong said he wasn’t sure how many improvements could be made with a budget of $6 million.

Among those being considered are a larger physical therapy department, new inpatient rooms, updated surgery and emergency rooms with private bays, improvements to the kitchen, a new dining room, and separate areas for cardiac rehabilitation, bone density scanning, and cardiac stress testing.

Patient rooms will be reduced from more than 20 to six or eight, Armstrong said. The cost of each room is $160,000.

The hospital’s laboratory also will be updated to include a station for drawing blood and a patient waiting room.

One of the most noticeable changes, Armstrong said, will be to the hospital’s front entrance.

“It will give the hospital an entirely new look,” he said.

The project will be completed in phases so the hospital will remain in operation.

“I’m not sure if we can do it all for $6 million, but we’ll try,” Armstrong said.

The board will borrow much of the money to complete the project and hopes to repay the debt out of operating revenue. As a result, neither a tax increase nor approval by voters of the district will be required.

“The board said the mill levy was high enough and was not in favor of increasing it,” he said. “The cash flow has been steady.”

A financial adviser will be chosen to provide options for the board to consider.

Armstrong said the hospital would not borrow the entire amount, instead using cash on hand, money from St. Luke Foundation and from a capital fund-raising effort.

A new hospital could cost as much as $12 million, Armstrong said, one reason board members chose to make renovations and expand on the existing site.

If the district did not make improvements, Armstrong said, $700,000 to $1 million in repairs, replacement, and maintenance of the 50-year-old facility’s mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems would be needed.

“We’ll have to replace these systems one way or the other,” he said.

Armstrong said he thought a more efficient hospital building would reduce the workload of maintenance personnel but might increase the need for more housekeepers. Efficient heating and cooling units will replace boilers.

A second physical therapist will be considered.

Board members will select an architect by the end of June, Armstrong said. When one is chosen, plans will be tweaked and finances reviewed.

If all goes according to plan, renovations could begin this fall or by next spring. The project will take several years to complete because it will be completed in phases.

Last modified June 11, 2009

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