The $32 million expansion of Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez is gaining ground, with a new emergency services station set to be completed this July.
Once the entire project is done, which hospital public relations director Haley Leonard Saunders said should be in 2018, it will include a new inpatient wing, a retail pharmacy, a new medical office building, additional parking, a new lobby and the EMS station. About 50 people are at work on the additions now, and project manager Rick Fleming of Nunn Construction said he expects as many as 150 to arrive later this summer.
The EMS station is the closest to being completed, and Fleming said it should take just a few more months to finish.
On Wednesday, April 19, several construction workers could be found drilling into the concrete foundation and swinging a crane over the largest addition to the hospital, the new inpatient wing.
It will house about 20 beds, including four intensive care units and three labor and delivery rooms, according to Saunders. It will also include a reception desk at the entrance, which she said will help hospital staff keep people from entering rooms without permission. “We have a really open environment right now,” Saunders said. “We’re excited to be able to greet people, catch them and then send them to the right place.
“It also improves security,” she said. “People won’t be wandering by themselves.”
New to the hospital is the planned retail pharmacy, to be located in a two-story medical office building on the south side of campus.
Saunders said it will allow patients to get their prescriptions on the campus instead of traveling elsewhere. That building will also become home for several doctors who currently work with the hospital but have offices elsewhere.
Saunders said about 22 doctors plan to move into the building next year, and the hospital hopes to recruit more.
But unlike the office building, which still looks largely like a dirt foundation, the EMS station’s exterior is mostly finished. When the inside is complete, it will include three bedrooms, a kitchen, a gym, a training room and enough garage space for five ambulances.
With the sleeping quarters, emergency staff will be on duty at the hospital 24 hours a day. The hospital also plans to acquire two ambulances this summer, and Saunders said the main benefit of the new station will be to protect the vehicles.
“If we have to turn on a truck and let it warm up, or get snow off, then that delays response,” she said. “We want to make sure they can unplug and then go.”
While the project is going on, hospital staff and construction crew have had to take some extreme steps to keep it from affecting patients and doctors. This summer, all traffic is being directed to the front of the building so crews can work in the back, and that will be reversed when it comes time to tear down the existing front lobby and replace it. Meanwhile, in places where construction workers have to enter the hospital, they’ve put up temporary walls to separate their entrance from the rest of the building.
They’re complete with “negative air machines” that suck air out of the hospital proper and funnel it outside the building so that dust and debris from construction can’t blow into patient quarters or operating rooms.
“Any dust or any dirt we stir up, we’re taking it outside,” Fleming said.
Saunders said patients have occasionally had problems navigating through the construction zones, but the hospital has hired two people specifically to act as guides and ushers during the project. Fleming said hospital staff have been very easy to work with throughout the construction process. “Any time we need something, we just ask them,” Fleming said.
“These projects are challenging, to try and keep them open ... and they kind of know we’re a necessary evil, and the sooner we get out of their hair, the better for everybody.”