Regional Medical Center administrators expect to begin hospital renovations this summer, the first tangible step in a $34.8 million project to expand services and treat more patients.
The renovations will focus on parts of the Anniston hospital’s emergency room and once complete, will make construction of a 14,000 square-foot building with expanded surgery and intensive care services possible. The renovations will come more than a year after administrators announced the project that is expected to help the hospital serve more patients and increase revenue.
“If everything falls into place, early to mid-summer is when the renovations will start,” Joe Weaver, chief operating officer for RMC, said during a Thursday phone interview.
Weaver said he could not yet give a date for when construction of the new building would begin.
“But the board continues to make the project a high priority and wants us to move forward as quickly as we possibly can,” Weaver said, referring to the RMC board of directors.
Weaver said the renovations will include converting a patient holding area at the emergency room into office space for anesthesiologists. On the back side of that new office space, workers will create a nursing lounge and more equipment storage space, Weaver said.
“It’s all stuff to accommodate the new building,” Weaver said of the renovations.
The new facility will be a two-story building constructed over of the emergency room’s parking lot, which would remain intact. The building will house 25 intensive care unit beds and 14 operating rooms.
Weaver said architects would soon complete drawings on the building and send them to the state for approval.
A hospital must get state approval if it intends to expand or build a new facility that surpasses certain cost thresholds or if it plans to offer a new medical service.
Once the facility is finished, RMC’s existing operating rooms and intensive care unit would be repurposed. RMC’s existing operating rooms and intensive care unit are small compared to modern ones, Weaver has said.
Louis Bass, CEO of RMC, has said the hospital’s goal with the center is to boost revenue and recruit more physicians and patients to keep it competitive with other markets.
Rosemary Blackmon, vice president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said hospitals across the state are doing whatever they can, including expanding services, to raise revenue. Blackmon said reimbursements for treatments have continued to decline while expenses have increased.
“These are challenging times for hospitals ... it’s very challenging for hospitals right now to break even,” Blackmon said.
According to a 2016 report by the hospital association, 69 percent of hospitals surveyed in the state were operating in the red.
Meanwhile, RMC expects to open a $9 million, 24,000 square-foot facility in Oxford in March, Weaver said.
Construction began in 2015 on the RMC Oxford Mediplex on U.S. 78 next to the Oxford Family Practice building. Once open, the facility will offer outpatient care services to Oxford-area patients.
Weaver said construction on the Oxford building should end by mid-February.
“We’ll still have to equip it with lab equipment and furniture after that,” he said.