Around 20 months after the ground was first broken, the more than $46 million new McDowell Hospital is taking shape.

By late December, the three-level structure should be substantially complete and by February of next year, it should be occupied and in operation as the new hospital for McDowell County.

For President Carol Wolfenbarger, she’s overseen the construction from the ground up of a new hospital that covers more than 105,000 square feet. Mission Health announced she would be the new president in March 2015 and the ground-breaking took place in October of that year. Vannoy Construction is the general contractor for this project.

The new building is located directly in front of the old one, which was finished in 1983, and the site has become a massive construction zone while the current hospital continues to treat patients. Traffic in and out of the hospital has been rerouted and a shuttle service makes the rounds to pick up and drop off folks.

“It’s been a phenomenal journey,” said Wolfenbarger.

Recently, Wolfenbarger and Cara Truitt, Mission Health’s regional director of government and community relations, gave a McDowell News reporter a tour of the soon-to-be completed hospital. They highlighted certain areas that will provide more efficient and up-to-date care than was previously available.

For one thing, the new emergency department will be located on the side of the campus opposite to where it is located now in the current building. There will be more room for ER patients to be seen and a larger waiting area for loved ones. The new emergency department will have 15 rooms, which includes three “safe rooms” for behavioral health patients. Two rooms will be devoted to trauma cases. The old emergency department has 11 rooms.

Wolfenbarger said this will continue the hospital’s effort to cut down on wait times in the emergency section.

“The wait times are the No. 1 factor in patients leaving our ER,” said Wolfenbarger. “We needed to address that.”

She added the hospital has reduced the number of ER patients who have left without being seen.

On the first level, the sprinklers, plumbing, mechanical and electrical subcontractors have completed much of their work. Drywall is being installed and priming and painting of the walls with the first coat is nearing completion. The ambulance entrance has been graded and will be paved later this month.

The acute care department will be housed on the second floor. This is where a patient receives short-term treatment for an injury, illness, an urgent medical condition or recovery from surgery. Labor and delivery and operating rooms will be on this floor.

Already, the painting is complete on the walls of the second floor and the majority of tilework in the bathrooms are done. The flooring is being installed.

Wolfenbarger and Truitt said the hospital has been designed to be more centered on the needs of the patient.

“We move to the patient’s needs rather than moving the patient around the hospital,” said Wolfenbarger.

The hospital’s pharmacy will be located in the center of the building for easier access. Likewise, the nursery in the labor and delivery section is centrally located. It can accommodate five babies.

There will be five post-partum rooms for new mothers to recover after delivering their babies. All of these rooms will have beautiful views of the mountains of McDowell County.

“Our goal is to keep (the newborns) with the mom and the new parents,” said Wolfenbarger.

The new facility will have three inpatient/outpatient operating rooms with redesigned pre-operative and post-operative care areas. There will be 12 pre- and post-operative bays with one C-section room. A new unit in the building will make room for McDowell Hospital’s telehealth function. This will allow medical staff to make connections to stroke, psychiatric, neurology and wound management expertise at Mission Hospital in Asheville.

The new hospital will have 30 patient beds. The old hospital is licensed for 65 beds but the average daily census of patients is now around 20, Wolfenbarger said.

“When the McDowell Hospital opened its doors, it was licensed for 65 beds,” reads a statement from Mission Health. “Individuals who checked into the hospital for a birth or operation were there for a relatively long time. Today, medical innovation has made many procedures ambulatory, with a patient walking into and out of the hospital on the same day.”

The new hospital building will reflect this reality. “With a current demand of 19 patients per day, this gives McDowell Hospital ample room to meet community inpatient needs,” reads the statement.

The new McDowell Hospital will include a new medical office building for physicians, specialists and other medical staff. That will bring them closer to their patients.

With the substantial construction scheduled to be done in the latter part of December, the date slated for the movement of patients is Feb. 23, 2018. “Activities for planning the movement of equipment and patients is underway as well as preparing the staff for the transition to the new facility equipped with new technology and with new patient flow patterns,” reads a statement from Wolfenbarger.

After that is accomplished, the old hospital will gradually be demolished and it should be gone by August of next year. A new parking area will be built where the old hospital stands now. It will be flat and more convenient for people to walk.

As the construction continues, McDowell Hospital is still seeking donations for its completion. Individuals and organizations can made donations for the various departments, rooms and areas of the facility.

“Our goal is to have the members of the community donate to this,” said Wolfenbarger.

McDowell Hospital construction facts

  • There will be 63,250 linear feet of piping throughout the hospital, which is the equivalent to walking 12 miles or four 18-hole golf courses.
  • Approximately 112,319 pounds of duct will be used, which is the equivalent of nine African elephants.
  • There will be 1,288 light fixtures and 219,900 linear feet of wire, which is the length of walking 11.5 golf courses (18-hole courses).
  • There will be 2,288 pieces of erectable steel and 9,400 bolts used to construct the hospital, which equates to 1,162,000 pounds of steel and 349,113 pounds of studs or two Boeing 747 airplanes.
  • 71,956 pounds of chillers and AHUs will be used for the roof equipment, which is the equivalent of the equipment used to build 24 Honda Civics.
  • A total of 12,795 boards will be used to construct the drywall, which is the length of 10 football fields.
  • 4,500 cubic yardage of concrete will be used, which equates to 130 swimming pools.
  • The main utility power of the hospital (2,000 kw) can power 50 2,500-square-foot homes and the two generators can power 27 2,500-square-foot homes.
  • The hospital will generate over 1 million watts of power, which can power 10,700 100-watt light bulbs.
  • The hospital will have 516 doors.
  • 165,000 bricks will be used on the construction, which is the equivalent to almost 21 miles when laid end-to-end.
  • 7,800 gallons of paint will be used.
  • There will be 65 toilets and 225 sinks.
  • A total of 38,000 cubic yards of dirt will be hauled and moved, which is the equivalent of 1.5 Goodyear Blimps.
  • There are 808 people working on the project.