Groundbreaking set for ED


Contact: Tammy G. Love

Director of Marketing & Medical Staff Development

Phone: (336) 651-8116

Wilkes Journal-Patriot Staff

Groundbreaking ceremonies will be held Wednesday, May 11, 11:30 a.m., at Wilkes Regional Medical Center for the expansion of the emergency department (ED) and surgery department, and addition of a heart center. Construction is scheduled to begin in June.

The heart center, which will be a part of the ED addition, should be completed within a year, and the two other projects finished within two years.

The hospital operating board, in a called meeting midday Monday, voted unanimously to award the construction contract to Shelco Inc., of Winston-Salem, the lowest of four bidders for the three projects at $9,997,000. That, said WRMC Chief Executive Officer Gene Faile, is approximately $2 million under projections.

"We had originally planned for this project to be around $12 million," he said. "We got some very competitive bids because of the economy, and the fact that contractors are looking for work."

Faile said that the hospital has already spent "several hundred thousand dollars" on architectural fees.

According to Faile, "Shelco is seen as the best choice to provide the craftsmanship for the most competitive price. In addition, this contractor intends to use local resources for the projects wherever possible, and that is an issue that is important to the hospital board."

He added that Shelco officials have already indicated that Duncan Electric, a locally owned and operated electrical contractor, will be used to provide supplies and services for the projects. They have also said that there will be several other local contractors and vendors recruited, resulting in new job opportunities for local residents.

The 9,500-square-foot ED expansion, which will extend the building 88 feet into the current ED parking area, will more than double the size of the emergency department. The number of exam rooms will increase from 19 to 29. The 2,200-square-foot heart center will be located in space added to the original expansion plans for the ED project. The surgery renovation will significantly improve patient flow to provide for continued growth in surgery cases. Two of the operating suites will be increased in size by 30 percent to allow for new equipment and technology.

Arnold Lakey, chairman of the WRMC board, added "Shelco has done very good work for WRMC in the past. "It's important to have a contractor who will support our community by utilizing local sub-contractors. This project will have a strong, positive impact on the local economy, while adding needed facilities to make our ED, operating room, and heart center the best in the region."

Parking spaces to be added

Faile said that the expansion of the ED will take 10 spaces in the department's parking area. He said that, with increased demand, the hospital needs to add 25-30 spaces in addition to those lost in the new project. Though the hospital's construction committee will make the final decision, Faile said that a new parking area with 35-40 spaces would probably be constructed on the west side (adjacent to the main hospital entrance) of the hillside in front of the hospital. A part of the $2 million saved with the lower-than-expected construction bid will be used to construct the lot.

Approval from town board

Faile, WRMC Chief Financial Officer Marlin Markham and WRMC Board Chairman Arnold Lakey attended the North Wilkesboro commissioners meeting Tuesday night to get clearance to borrow $25 million from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The hospital is borrowing the money rather than issuing bonds in order to avoid fees associated with the bond market. The hospital is owned by the town and leased to the WRMC hospital operating board. Markham explained that$25 million was needed for the construction, for equipment for the expansion, to refinance the remaining $7.2 million balance of a $9 million loan for an earlier construction project (which included the New Beginnings Birthing Center), a new $4 million computer system that will "go live" in December, and other projects. Faile added, "The loan from WFBMC will also repay our cash reserve for money expended for pre-construction costs over the past several years." Markham said that the hospital currently had enough cash on hand for 39 days of operation. The number has been as high as 59 in recent months and, earlier, as low as 29 days. The number of days fluctuates as patient payments are received and hospital obligations (such as payroll and equipment) are paid. Markham said, "We can operate well on 45 days or over."

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