Highland District Hospital officials and well-wishers took part in ground-breaking ceremonies Thursday evening for planned renovations and improvements at the facility, originally built in 1962.
The activities were the official kick off to a series of renovations that include a 39,000-square-foot addition and additional parking spaces, with a projected completion date sometime in the spring of 2020.
Building Expansion Project 2020 is a huge $21.5 million, two-year endeavor that encompasses improvements to patient care and conveniences inside and out of the hospital.
Dick Barerra, owner of Bararra’s Garage in New Market, came to the groundbreaking as a private citizen to show his support for the building program.
“My son Scott works here at the hospital,” he said, “and what we’re seeing here tonight will be a great asset for the people of Highland County and the surrounding areas.”
Improvements include all private inpatient rooms being furnished with the latest equipment to keep pace with changing technology, a new unit to aid in patients’ fight against cancer, additional access points to make patient registration easier, and expansion and improvements in the surgery unit.
HDH Board of Director Vice President Larry Burns echoed the sentiments of many past and present patients of the hospital when it came to the renovations including private rooms.
“I have to go back to times when members of my own family came here,” he said, “and you always heard about folks wanting single rooms, and with the addition of private rooms, this will be a tremendous benefit for the community. I’m just excited that if I ever get sick, that’ll I’ll have my own private room to get well in.”
Highland District’s expansion also includes improvements in outpatient care, which include a new orthopedic and sports medicine clinic and an on-site expanded outpatient rehab unit.
Patients will also see traffic access improvements that will make entrance into the hospital more easy, and the parking lot will be expanded to accommodate anticipated future growth.
Highland County Commissioner Terry Britton said the groundbreaking signals some great things in store for the whole county.
“This is going to be something that’ll help the county for many, many years,” he said. “If you look at that picture of the building from 1914, I remember being in that building when I was a young boy, so from my point of view, I can really appreciate the improvements they’re speaking of.”
Britton’s wife Bonnie, who worked in the hospital purchasing department for 37 years, had high praise for what is planned.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said, “and it’s about time.”
“We have made a focused-effort to enhance the areas that will make the most impact for you and your family based on the feedback we have received from patients,” Randal Lennartz, HDH president and CEO, said in a news release. “Our mission to serve the community by providing accessible, efficient, quality health care in an atmosphere of safety, compassion and excellence will continue to be our daily focus, but these improvements will provide a more positive patient experience for years to come.”
Tim Parry, vice president of operations added, “This is something that is much needed that will allow us to provide advanced care to the community and the surrounding area.”
Parry also expressed confidence in the contractors that everything will come together by the projected deadline.
“Pepper Construction and TEG Architects have been great to work with,” he said. “They do things in a timely manner, very professional, and weather permitting we’re on target for spring 2020.”
Bridget Skaggs is a 33-year employee of the hospital and is the outpatient manager.
“I’m more excited for med-surg than anything,” she said, “because those rooms will be private, with showers in their rooms and they’ll have the latest advancements in medical technology available to them.”
Highland District Hospital employs 350 people supplemented with more than 50 volunteers, and a medical staff consisting of moe than 100 physicians and mid-level providers that represent more than 25 different practice specialties and sub-specialties.
Dr. Julie Karnes, HDH chief of staff, said the effort is money well spent.
“This is money that is excellently spent, and it’s long past time, actually,” she said.
Karnes pointed out the need for providing services in a private atmosphere and having rehabilitative medicine back in-house rather than across the street as it is at present.
“We’ll have updated and state-of-the-art technology in place with enhanced information technology,” she said. “And those things are so important in today’s world of medicine.”
Blaine Williams manages the rehab department at HDH, which is currently located across the street behind Walgreen’s.
“We’re going to be moving over here into a new facility where we’ll be on campus,” he said, “and just to have everything under one roof will really be beneficial to our patients.”
Karnes added that the relationship between nurses and patients will be better due to the renovations, in that the nurses will be closer to their patient care areas, whereas now “they’re walking all the way down a hallway toward a blinking light, so I see nothing but positives when this is all completed.”
Construction will be completed in several stages over the next two years so that the hospital can remain fully operational.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.