2013-02-28 / Front Page

Hospital nearing completion

Old facility scheduled to be demolished this summer

Above, the entrance to the new SMH facility is shown under construction in January. The building is set to open in April. 
Pioneer Tribune photo Above, the entrance to the new SMH facility is shown under construction in January. The building is set to open in April. Pioneer Tribune photo MANISTIQUE – The new Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital will be opening in April, and hospital crews are currently putting finishing touches on the multi-million dollar facility. Under construction since last year, the new facility will replace the current facility, which opened in 1950.

According to SMH CEO George Montgomery, the new facility is over 95 percent complete, with approximately 90 percent of the signage in place, and only minor details remaining. Near the end of March, equipment will be moved from the hospital, which will take approximately two weeks, he explained. An open house will be held on April 12 for the public, and the hospital will officially open on April 22, with patients being moved within a few hours on that day.

“I think it’s about as good as we’re going to be able to do,” Montgomery said.

The laboratory will only be down for a couple of hours during the move, and he noted there would still be some staff available in the old ER for a few hours just in case there is any confusion. A mobile CT (computerized tomography) scan unit will be used at the facility until after the hospital opens, due to its size.

The new hospital’s design will enhance each patient’s experience, Montgomery explained. Upon entering the building, each patient or visitor will walk into a central corridor, going to the right for the Rural Health Clinic, and left for all other services.

“Pretty much everything on the north side is ‘hospital’ space’. On the south side … are the support services for the hospital, other than the clinic,” he said. “The walking distances aren’t there, there are no ramps.

That’s our intention – to make it very convenient for patients.”

The front of the hospital will likely have a staff or volunteer available to direct visitors and patients for at least the first days of the hospital’s opening, Montgomery added.

“From a space perspective, we obviously have about the same space as the old hospital and clinic, but we’re a lot more efficient,” he said. “The public areas are comfortable, the staff areas are functional.”

In the clinic, as well as the rest of the hospital, extra precautions, such as the installation of HEPA filtration were installed to increase air flow and add a “bit of a safety factor”, Montgomery said. Twelve private patient rooms, each with their own restroom, are a highlight of the facility.

“They all face the wooded area … there’s no sidewalks or viewable road behind the building,” he said. “We really talked a long time about what we wanted for the patient view. We think, for a lot of reasons, the best one.”

The new inpatient area is not readily accessible to the public, a departure from the current hospital, which has a public entrance adjacent to inpatient rooms.

“It’s going to be, I think, quite comfortable for patients,” he said.

The hospital also boasts a separate waiting room for emergency room patients and families, as well as larger operating rooms. The new cafeteria has a patio area for use in the summer months, and will have expanded hours, due to the facility’s distance from the city.

As for the old hospital, Montgomery said the SMH Board of Trustees has decided to demolish the building. Using approximately $1 million in USDA Rural Development funds, SMH will demolish the main building, leaving behind the Rural Health Clinic and some space to be used by the Schoolcraft County Medical Care Facility.

“We’ve developed a building demolition plan that preserves that space for them (MCF),” he said. “What they’ll have to do is figure out how to heat and cool it … and finish the exterior of it once we’ve knocked down the rest of it.”

The board awarded the demolition bid to Stan Zellar, of Zellar Excavating, Inc. of Gulliver, and the work will be completed in May or June. Prior to the demolition, an abatement survey will be completed using Brownfield Authority funds secured for the hospital by the Economic Development Corporation, Montgomery said.

The survey is needed to assess if, and how much, asbestos is present in the old facility.

“There is some Brownfield development support out there for the asbestos abatement and the asbestos testing of the space,” Montgomery said. “It’s not dangerous until you touch it. It has to be removed, taken out, separately from the demolition.”

The remainder of the USDA funds will be used to possibly renovate the old clinic space.

“We have to balance the cost of renovating the clinic … versus the cost of building new,” he said. “That has to be planned over the next few months – would we be better off going farther west here (at the new site) and adding another clinic building at some point in time … instead of spending a lot of money to renovate the old one.”

Until a decision is made on the clinic, it will house the hospital’s physical and occupational therapy services, which are not moving with the hospital, as well as a current tenant.

Another potential issue with the new facility is transportation, explained Montgomery, since the Schoolcraft Public Transit charges a higher rate to travel the short distance out of town. SMH and the transit board are currently working on a solution for this problem, he said.

“We’re prepared to do some subsidy of bus transportation,” he said. “If they come out to us, we want to pay for their ride home.”

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