Construction nearly complete on new hospital
By Catharin Shepard
Although the walls are still coated with primer and the doors to Hoke County’s first hospital are still just temporary wooden boards, FirstHealth of the Carolinas project manager Cindy Hetzler expects to have the building’s keys in hand within the next 40 days.
A month later, the eight-bed emergency room will open up for patients for the first time in the county’s 102-year history.
“The hospital is due to open on October 1 to see our first patient,” Hetzler told a group of local and state officials who toured the nearly completed hospital last week.
The facility will operate a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week emergency department and will also have an eight-bed inpatient section with private patient rooms.
The flooring is installed under temporary protective padding. Some walls have been painted and others primed, the nurses’ stations are in place and soon workers will start moving the medical equipment into the operating room, the nuclear medicine suite and the on-site laboratory.
“We take substantial completion of the building so we can start loading everything in to the building as of the first of September,” Hetzler said.
The hospital will open its doors to guests a few weeks before it begins accepting patients. The facility will celebrate a grand opening September 22 during the final days of the North Carolina Turkey Festival.
The hospital has been approved for a traffic control light on U.S. Highway 401 and the facility has three entranceways: one main entrance, one emergency department entrance
(See construction, page 6A)
and a third set aside for ambulances. A helipad to the rear of the hospital offers more flexibility. If the hospital has a patient with greater needs than can be served at the local facility, more specialized care is just a helicopter ride away, officials said.
The medical offices still under construction to the side of the main hospital building should be complete not long after the hospital itself opens, Hetzler said.
“We will have the medical office building open about a month after the hospital opens, with the first suites being the cardio internal medicine suite,” she said. Those offices will offer outpatient care and services. The hospital will also have a mobile MRI unit at the back of the facility, with a connecting covered space specially designed to allow patients to go from the interior of the hospital directly into the mobile unit.
The state approved a Certificate of Need request by the hospital system for an additional 28 acute care beds, but Cape Fear Valley appealed the decision, and the matter is still under discussion at the state level. If state decision-makers grant FirstHealth the beds after all, the entire current facility will likely be turned into an emergency department, officials said. The hospital was designed in such a way to allow for the facility to operate while additional construction goes on to the rear of the building, if the state does uphold its original decision to give FirstHealth the additional acute care beds for Hoke County.
Cape Fear Valley Health, which opened outpatient facility Health Pavilion Hoke earlier this year, is also progressing with plans for a 41-bed hospital with emergency room just a few miles further down U.S. Highway 401. Previous statements from Cape Fear Valley officials reported the hospital system plans to have that hospital open sometime in 2014.