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SWMC Construction Project Half Way Home

KSCB News - October 13, 2011 9:08 am

LIBERAL, KS – It started with a plan, and a vote of support, culminated with a kick off on a Kansas blustery, cold day. And now, they are half way home to completing a $22 million construction project overwhelmingly supported by an 82 percent show of support by local voters in March 2010.

“We are proud to say that we are now at the half way mark for our construction project which we began almost one year ago,” said Southwest Medical Center Vice President of Operations Michele Gillespie, adding that it won’t be long until part of the hospital’s “new look” will be enjoyed by employees, patients and visitors alike.

“We plan to have the new gift shop and main lobby open by the first week of November and the medical office building is expected to be ready to open in February and possibly sooner,” she said. “We have begun work on the landscaping to the campus grounds and all that we utilize for the landscaping will be native to Southwest Kansas. The entire construction project is moving right along.”

According to Southwest Medical Center CEO/President Norm Lambert, there are already five physicians who will move into the new medical office building once it is opened.

As the project has progressed, there have been many changes. Almost immediately after it began, fencing went up around the construction site, excavation work began and traffic in and out of the hospital campus had to be rerouted.

“The main entrance drive to the hospital had to be reconfigured to accommodate our new look,” Gillespie said. “We have been working very closely with Nabholz Construction and the subcontractors to minimize any disruption or inconvenience for our patients, visitors and staff. Throughout this process we have had to periodically re-route traffic and there will be more changes to the traffic flow in the future until the project is completed. With the excavation, concrete pouring, construction of the building, delivery of equipment and all that goes along with a project of this magnitude – it is to be expected.”

Nabholz Construction Project Superintendent James McElhany said working with Southwest Medical Center has been “great”.

“I have worked at a lot of hospitals and this has been the most cooperative and understanding of what is going on and what needs to be done to complete this project,” McElhany said.

According to McElhany, there were 33,000 yards of dirt that were originally moved for the project, and they have poured 4,800 cubic yards of concrete.

The presence of the workers has in itself been a benefit to the local community not just for the facility that will result out of the project but because of what else they are doing while they are here.

“All of our Nabholz field personnel are hired locally,” McElhany said. “Many live here 21 out of every 31 days. There are 50 to 70 workers here each day and out of that number 10 to 15 of them are local, and 45 to 50 of them are from out of town, but they are staying in the local motels, renting apartments or houses and they are spending money on gas, food and other items while they are here.”

Another plus is that Nabholz and Southwest Medical Center are utilizing four local sub-contractors and they have purchased needed materials locally as much as possible.

Heading up the construction team for Nabholz along with McElhany are Project Engineer Jeff Nelson, Assistant Supervisor Chad Cobb and Project Manager Clint Malley. Working with them from Health Facilities Group, an architect firm from Wichita, are Mark Crane and Ben Harvey.

Lambert is very appreciative of not only the partnership between the contractors on the project, but also of the hospital staff and the community.

“Everyone on our staff has really come together to work on each area of the hospital affected by this project,” he said. “We have had to move several departments to other areas while construction is going on. And, we also appreciate the patience of the community throughout this process.”

Tours began in May and have continued on each Friday for hospital staff in order to keep them informed and give them a firsthand look of the project’s progress.

Since the project began almost a year ago a lot has been accomplished.

“The 45-year-old chiller and cooling towers for the hospital have been replaced and a pump house has been added,” Gillespie said. “Both emergency generators for the facility have been relocated to accommodate the construction plans and a new boiler is in the works with staff hoping to see it installed in November. A committee was formed to work on the new signage for the facility which will compliment the new look as well as assist visitors with finding their way through the facility. A new faster and state-of-the-art MRI was installed in the facility in August. The Magnetom Essenza MRI, allows staff at SWMC to perform more types of exams, such as breast, orthopedic, vascular and abdominal studies.”

Although it has been a challenge to find parking during the construction phase of the project, once it is completed, there will be 80 to 90 additional parking spaces.

According to Lambert, there is still much more to be done.

“We still have a lot of work to do, including the work on the new emergency room area and some remodeling inside to areas such as the cafeteria,” he said. “But, when it is all said and done, I think we will have a facility the staff and community can be very proud of.”


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