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Winchester Medical Center announces expansion

November 17, 2008

WINCHESTER, Va. -- Winchester Medical Center announced plans Tuesday to submit a Certificate of Public Need (COPN) application to the state for a major campus expansion to meet growing demand and reduce overcrowding.

The announcement was made by Al Pilong, Winchester Medical Center president and Valley Health senior vice president.

The campus expansion project is estimated to cost $178 million and will be financed by a combination of reserve funds, philanthropy and bond offerings, according to a news release.

"This expansion project is a response to a growing and aging population, and recognition of the clinical capabilities we have assembled that attract patients to Winchester," Pilong said. "This project is broad in scope and will position us to continue to fulfill our mission to serve our regional community for decades to come."

The largest piece of the multipart expansion is the construction of a six-level North Tower that will rise above the emergency department. The tower will include an expanded emergency department and a 20-bed observation unit, which will allow emergency room patients and others to be observed for up to 23 hours without being admitted to a hospital bed.

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"The observation unit is an important piece of the puzzle for us," Pilong said in the release. "We are continually challenged with bed capacity which makes it difficult to always readily accept patients who need our services. Our intention is to avoid having to turn patients away in the future."

A 48-bed critical care unit, including step down beds, is included in the tower. Eighteen beds will be new and 30 will transfer from their current location at WMC.

The newborn intensive care unit (NICU) and the well-newborn nursery will expand from a combined 24 bassinets to 52. Significant growth is needed in the NICU to serve the needs of a sprawling service area that reaches into West Virginia and Maryland. It is also in response to significant advances in treatments for pre-term infants.

The project also will add a one-story Heart & Vascular Center in front of the Outpatient Center. The Heart & Vascular Center will include space for one cardiac catheterization lab, as well as additional holding beds for scheduled cardiac and vascular procedures.

To address parking concerns, construction of a five-level parking deck with 560 spaces will begin this spring northeast of the hospital's main entrance.

The campus expansion project includes 348,000 square feet of new space, 65,000 square feet of renovated space, and 139,000 square feet of shell space. The COPN application will be submitted by the end of 2008 and a decision is anticipated by June, 2009.

If the hospital expansion project is approved, the total number of licensed beds at Winchester Medical Center will increase from 411 to 445. Newborn bassinets are not included in the state's hospital bed count. Anticipating future growth, the two top floors of the north tower will be constructed as shell space for cost-effective expansion at a later date.

Work on the North Tower is slated to begin by fall 2009 and all phases of construction are scheduled for completion in late 2012. Before construction begins, however, Valley Health will reassess the health of the bond market. WMC has three years from the time the COPN is approved before it has to break ground, the release states.

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