A ground-breaking ceremony was held Tuesday morning for the new $37.2 million McDowell Hospital, scheduled to be ready by 2017.
Despite the cold, rainy weather, the ceremony was held Tuesday underneath a tent in front of the existing hospital building. The event included staff and representatives from McDowell Hospital, Mission Health, the hospital’s board as well as city of Marion and McDowell County officials.
The new hospital will house 30 in-patient beds, including five labor and delivery suites, and 25 in-patient rooms. There will be three inpatient/outpatient operating rooms with 12 pre- and post-operative bays and one C-section room. It will have 15 emergency department treatment bays, including two trauma rooms; and state-of-the-art imaging equipment.
It should be able to serve McDowell County’s health care needs well into the rest of the 21st century, said hospital officials.
“The biggest thing to me is building a new facility just reinforces the commitment that we have to addressing the health care needs in our community,” said Carol Wolfenbarger, president of McDowell Hospital.
It will also have more convenient parking on a level surface. Visitors won’t have to travel up a hill anymore to reach the hospital.
The new McDowell Hospital will “improve the safety and efficiency of our care and services, and enhance patient and guest experiences by providing a state-of-the-art facility.” In addition, this new building will “position the hospital to respond in the way health care is delivered by preparing us for the better outpatient care,” according to a statement from Mission Health and McDowell Hospital.
“This $37.2 million dollar project builds on and supports the vision for healthcare in our communities,” said Wolfenbarger. “A new facility will allow us to provide outpatient care and services while focusing on the management of the health of the population within a regional network of care that remains sustainable for many years to come.”
The new 56,000-square-foot hospital planned for McDowell will be built right in front of the existing one, which will be demolished. The project also includes a 28,000-square-foot medical office building. The new parking lot will have 350 spaces.
Another change will be the emergency room’s location. The new one will be placed on the side of the building. Therefore, McDowell EMS will use the side entrance at the new hospital.
Perhaps the biggest change will be the fact that the new hospital’s entrance will face towards the rear of the property. The new parking lot will be located back there. The cafeteria will be located at what is now considered to be the front, facing towards Rankin Drive. So, the back part will become the new front of the hospital and likewise what is now considered to be the front will actually become the new back part.
Design Strategies of Charlotte is the architect. Vannoy Construction of Charlotte will be the general contractor.
The existing hospital will continue to operate until the new one is ready.
Opened in 1983, the current building on Rankin Drive is the sixth one to serve the people of McDowell County. When the hospital was built in the early 1980s, the local community raised money for its construction. Local physicians helped guide the planning and design.
McDowell Hospital became a part of Mission Health starting 10 years ago. In just the past few years, the hospital has undergone a series of improvements. But even with these upgrades, McDowell Hospital is still not equipped for the changing face of health care. The growth of outpatient care is now exceeding inpatient care. This means hospitals like the one McDowell has now are not ready for the future of health care. This new facility will be designed to provide more outpatient care, said Mission Health officials.
“The ultimate goal of Mission Health System is to have healthy communities,” said Kathy Guyette, senior vice president of Patient Care Services and president of Regional Member Hospitals with Mission Health. “One way we plan to approach Population Health is through a focus on outpatient access so that we keep people out of the hospital. We’ve begun focusing on this in the past two years by working to provide additional access points for primary care.”
In recent years, Mission Health has opened primary care practices in Glenwood, Nebo and Old Fort. Family Medicine Glenwood has added dental care to its list of services.
“The new McDowell Hospital facility will continue to reinforce this through a focus on outpatient services,” said Guyette. “Our aim is to build convenient access to care while still providing access to urgent and emergent care. And yes, if your illness requires an in-patient stay, we will be here for you.”
Norman Guthrie, chairman of the McDowell Foundation, said he’s seen a dramatic change in health care in McDowell County through the years.
“The level of care that is provided here at McDowell Hospital is unbelievable,” he said. “There’s been a significant change in the level of service and safe, quality care an individual can receive now here at McDowell.
“This new facility is incredibly important for our community. Mission Health and McDowell Hospital are to thank for this obvious improvement for our patients now and for years to come. As Carol and Kathy mentioned, this new facility will continue to allow us to more efficiently provide higher levels of care and even better treatment for our patients. I’ve had the pleasure of leading workforces in four locations during my career. I can easily say that I’ve never encountered a community more deserving of health care at the highest level than the residents here in McDowell County. That, for me, is one of the most pleasing outcomes of this project.”
Bobbie Young, chairwoman of the hospital’s board of directors, said the first hospital in McDowell County opened in 1908 and there has been one here continuously since then. When it is completed, the new hospital will be the fourth one for McDowell County within the past 75 years.
“The future of health care has a great outlook in McDowell County,” she said. “The idea that we’re so focused on the future is exciting to me. The improvements made throughout the past fiscal year, as well as the new McDowell Hospital facility will set the stage for us for many years to come.”