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Hospital work could start in 2009

June 15, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - A row of four houses along North Coldbrook Avenue was being knocked down last week to make way for a new parking area, space that will be needed once the hospital begins a major expansion, the centerpiece of which will be a six-floor "patient tower."

"We're still working on refining our design of a 'patient tower,'" John Massimilla, vice president for administration at Chambersburg Hospital, said Thursday. "We're kind of treading water in a sense because of the volatility of the bond market."

If the bond market becomes less volatile, and the hospital's board of directors approves the project sometime in the next six months, construction could begin in the spring or summer of 2009, Massimilla said.

Seeing the houses torn down left Franklin County Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski with mixed feelings. A member of the board and its Building Committee, he used to live in one of them.

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"That's where I spent the first eight years of my life," Ziobrowski said. "You hate to see your childhood home torn down ... especially when I'm one of the people responsible for it."

The board and hospital administration have met numerous times, but the scope of the project has not yet been finalized, Ziobrowski said.

"We don't have a definite plan to show (the board) at this point ... a plan they can attach a solid number to," Massimilla said. The number, however, will be a large one.

"When all is said and done - construction, fees and equipment - the project will cost somewhere between $120 million and $150 million," Massimilla said. That kind of investment also represents the hospital's commitment to remain in the borough, and the borough's cooperation with the project, he said.

It would be one of the most expensive construction projects ever in the county for one of its largest employers. Summit Health employs about 2,400 people at Chambersburg and Waynesboro (Pa.) hospitals and its affiliated businesses, with about 1,800 working at Chambersburg Hospital, Massimilla said.

The "patient tower" will have 196 private rooms for intensive-care unit and medical-surgical patients, along with supporting space for clinical services, Massimilla said. The change to private hospital rooms over semiprivate rooms will eventually become the norm at the hospital, now licensed for 248 beds, he said.

Some specialized units, such as maternity, behavioral health and rehabilitation, will remain in the main hospital, which was built in 1959. When that building is renovated in the future, the hospital rooms also would become private, Massimilla said.

"That's our goal," he said. "The new tower would almost get us there."

Massimilla said there are several reasons for private rooms - reducing the spread of infections, reducing transfers of patients, better patient and family satisfaction, and more room.

"There's a lot of equipment in the rooms that wasn't there 20 years ago," he said of the computers, monitors and other machines that now crowd hospital rooms.

Once construction gets under way, Massimilla said the project is expected to be completed in between 30 and 36 months.

The last major expansion of Chambersburg Hospital was completed three years ago - an expansion of the emergency department from 9,500 square feet to 23,300 square feet. That, along with other renovations performed at the same time, cost $13.9 million.

During construction, the more than 100 parking spaces that will replace the demolished houses will be needed for construction. Much of the parking area behind the hospital will be taken up by the construction site itself, along with construction equipment, Massimilla said.

"If you're going to have a community hospital and have it here in the borough and be able to expand, you've got to have parking," Ziobrowski said. The North Coldbrook Avenue lot will be landscaped to make it as unobtrusive as possible for the neighborhood, he said.

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