ERHC set to begin expansion, renovation

Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series on the renovation and expansion project at Elk Regional Health Center. ST. MARYS - The long-awaited expansion and renovation of Elk Regional Health Center (ERHC) has begun, with bids recently opened and construction slated for early summer. The biggest portion of the building and modernization project will be the addition of a third floor to the existing hospital structure, with a number of upgrades and renovations in other departments also taking place. The project will construct a 37,500-square-foot third floor housing 42 new, private medical/surgical/pediatrics rooms with private baths in each; two new, centrally located nurses' stations to oversee each half of the medical/surgical/pediatrics unit; a new, 10-bed Generations Unit; and also renovate part of the existing first floor near the surgery suite and recreate it as a new, more efficient Maternity unit that includes four obstetrics/gynecology patient rooms, four rooms for labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum, and a dedicated operating room for emergency Caesarean sections. The projected overall cost for the project is approximately $10.3 million. According to Elk Regional Health System (ERHS) President and CEO Gregory P. Bauer, the last major update, a two-story addition located over the hospital's main entrance, was completed in 2001-2002. "We wanted a third floor at that time, but we decided to be financially conservative and wait. When the 2001 building was constructed, we made sure it could accommodate a third floor at some future time. That time is now," Bauer said. Sam MacDonald, Director of Support Services and Business Development for ERHC, noted that a major reason for the project is the age of the buildings that currently house the majority of inpatient services, including the medical/surgical/pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and Generations Unit rooms. "The hospital is old," MacDonald said. "Basically the main portion of the hospital is a 1941 building. That was added to in 1958." He said the two buildings, which are 70 and 53 years old respectively, are no longer adequate for the demands placed on them by today's healthcare practices and equipment. "Those structures have served us very well over the decades, but it became apparent quite some time ago that we were going to need to update what we had going on," MacDonald said. The 2001-2002 addition added the facility's current registration unit, radiology and lab services, ICU, short procedure areas, operating rooms and the emergency room. "That was a major project for this facility and it really moved a lot of things into the 20th century. What we did not do at that time was update our inpatient services - med/surg, Generations Unit, maternity. Several reasons for that, mostly being that we were trying to be financially prudent. I think there weren't enough resources to at the time to go ahead and plunk $25 million all at once into the system. So we decided to make do with the inpatient services that we had," MacDonald said. He said even at that time, however, a third floor was part of ERHC's long-range plans. "Some people had taken the long view and basically made this structure, gave it the mechanical capacity to hold another floor. There is an extra elevator bank there if you go down to registration, the ER unit right now - you can't see it, but here is another elevator shaft there. The heating, ventilation units can handle another floor - all that kind of stuff. So basically, all we needed to do was put up some extra steel and some extra walls, and the plan was always in place to move our inpatient services out of these buildings into this building. And it was even more than in case - I think it was sort of, we knew we needed to do this," MacDonald said.