With the symbolic turning of a few shovels of dirt, the region’s largest expansion of health care facilities ever began on the campus of New Hanover Regional Medical Center on January 19. At the groundbreaking ceremony, state and federal elected officials, community leaders, physicians and special guests helped the medical center kick off the massive project.
Ultimately, the expansion will alter how health care will be provided for the next generation of residents in Southeastern North Carolina.
U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, the keynote speaker, praised hospital leadership for its compassion, commitment and cooperation in planning the expansion.
“You are at the forefront of making folks here a little bit better, or in some cases, a whole lot better,” Rep. McIntyre said. “You are making an investment that will augment, supplement and propel the quality of life everyone’s rushing to move here for.
“You are giving people hope for a better tomorrow.”
The medical center’s Board of Trustees approved the project in August 2005 with four goals for enabling NHRMC to better serve the growing region:
Update and expand the facilities for women’s and children’s services
Update and expand the facilities for surgical services
Improve capacity for taking care of patients
Improve access to outpatient services and make them easier to use
The facilities plan, developed with leading national consultants, architects as well as area physicians and hospital staff, addresses patient needs and retained the NHRMC campus as the hub of clinical services. The plan includes new construction as well as renovation of existing structures.
Jack Barto, president and CEO of New Hanover Regional, said facilities needed to keep pace with the excellent quality of the medical staff in this community.
“We will have a facility that will match the day-to-day care provided here,” he said.
One centerpiece will be the construction of a new women’s and children’s center, the first of its kind in Southeastern North Carolina. The $44 million, 149-bed facility will be built at the site of the groundbreaking in front of the Coastal AHEC/Cameron Education building between the main campus and the Coastal Rehabilitation Hospital.
The children’s services area will include a six-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. It will become the basis of a pediatric critical care and surgery program that will close a gap in medical services in the region. When the building opens in 2008, children with critical health needs will be able to receive care near their home community so their parents will not have to arrange transportation and overnight lodging to go to hospitals hours away.
The new women’s and children’s center will feature all private rooms, including in the Neonatal and Pediatric ICUs. It will also have family areas for siblings to play or families to have respite between visiting their young child, and it will house its own gift shop and dining area.
The surgical pavilion, to be built behind the main building at NHRMC, will accommodate the larger equipment required for minimally invasive surgery practiced today. It will feature 26 operating rooms, each measuring more than 600 square feet, which is close to 50 percent larger than the current rooms. The pavilion will also have private rooms for pre- and post-surgical patients, allowing family members more time and space to be with the patient. It will also have an expanded waiting area for families during the surgery, and more convenient parking and access to the building. It is scheduled to open in December 2007.
The main patient tower at New Hanover Regional that has served the region almost 40 years will remain, but will be completely renovated on the interior. One result will be the creation of almost all private rooms, allowing patients more privacy and more time with family and visitors. The tower will also benefit from upgraded heating and air and elevator systems.
Several projects will address other key services, particularly for outpatients. The Emergency Department at NHRMC will almost triple in size and increase its waiting area. Heart and vascular services will consolidate within its own center at New Hanover Regional including an entrance for the public. And radiology services, among the fastest growing in health care, will expand to “backfill” the space vacated by surgery moving to a new pavilion.
When it’s all done in 2010, health care in Southeastern North Carolina will have undergone a significant change. For the better.