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For Boone hospital, no more 'busting at the seams'

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For several years, Boone Memorial Hospital has been "patching patches and remodeling dozens of times" to pass state inspections, the hospital's chief executive officer said Thursday.

Tommy Mullins hopes that will change now that federal officials have approved a loan to build a new hospital.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program approved the $31.8 million loan so that Boone Memorial can build, equip and furnish the new hospital. The loan, called a Community Facility Direct Loan, is to help develop essential community facilities in rural areas with fewer than 20,000 residents, according to the USDA.

When Boone Memorial opened in 1964, 40 employees walked the halls, Mullins said. Today, 175 physicians, registered nurses and janitors work at the hospital.

Over the years, the hospital has knocked down walls, replaced the roof and has had electrical and plumbing problems.

"Employee-wise, there are more people in here than there should be and that's not counting our patients," Mullins said. "We just have exceeded the intent of this building. We're busting at the seams."

Mullins said the hospital has worked on plans to build a new facility for seven years.

The total project will cost $34.3 million. Boone Memorial will raise the $2.5 million the USDA loan does not cover, Mullins said.

The loan is not contingent on Boone Memorial raising that $2.5 million, but Mullins said he is confident the hospital can raise the money through a capital campaign, grants and philanthropic organizations.

Boone Memorial switched from a county-owned hospital to a nonprofit community hospital in July 2012 so that it could raise donations for this project, Mullins said.

"It is so difficult to give to the county for another entity because it goes through the county books. But if you're a nonprofit community hospital, you can contribute directly to the hospital and take it off your taxes with no issues," Mullins said. "This was the driving reason for the new hospital to raise money."

The new hospital will be nearly double the size of the existing 40,000-square-foot facility, located about a mile off U.S. 119 in Madison.

The one-and-a-half story building will house a pharmacy and inpatient unit on the top floor. Each room will be a private room -- an improvement from the existing hospital's one- two- and four-bedroom options.

"The rooms will be built not only for the patient but the patient's family," Mullins said. "They will be identical in design so a provider going in one room will know exactly where something is stored in any room. That's a big advantage."

For the first time, Boone Memorial will have a surgery suite. Patients who need orthopedic surgery will be able to get it done in Madison, he said.

The endoscopy surgery room will double in space and the physical-therapy space will be tripled.

Boone Memorial will not add more beds because the government permits only 25 beds for critical-access hospitals, which are rural community hospitals that receive cost-based reimbursement.

The new hospital is "going to be as green of a building as we can afford to be," Mullins said. The existing hospital is extremely energy inefficient, has inadequate environmental controls and the safety and security systems do not meet new standards. Five years from now, the building would not have been approved completely by state inspection agencies, he said.

Mullins said the new hospital will use skylights to reduce the cost of electricity used on lighting and heating.

"It will be energy efficient and it will be designed to last for at least 50 years," Mullins said. "We have not designed it for our needs today, we have done the best to guess for the future and design it for years to come."

The 18-month construction will begin no later than July 2013, he said. The new facility will stand right next to the existing hospital. Once the new hospital is finished, the old Boone Memorial will be torn down and the space used as a parking lot for the new hospital. Mullins said that would take six months.

During the demolition of the old hospital, employees will be bussed from two parking lots off Boone Memorial's campus and patients will park in what is now the employee parking lot.

Mullins said he anticipates the new hospital to attract more physicians. At least 20 people will be hired when it opens, he said.

For now, Mullins, the hospital staff and the community are celebrating the good news, he said. Mullins has worked at Boone Memorial for 48 years -- the longest tenure for a hospital administrator in West Virginia, he said -- and he's excited to provide the community with a new hospital.

"The community heavily supports this facility," Mullins said. "The phone has been ringing off the hook from people who are happy and congratulating us."

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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