Community effort: Construction finally under way on new hospital

Phil Castle,  The Business Times

Chris Thomas heralds the long-anticipated construction of a new Community Hospital in Grand Junction with a single word: finally.

There’s been a benefit, though, to the nearly decade-long wait. And that’s been ample time to design a facility from scratch that will meet the needs of patients, accommodate a rapidly changing health care industry and afford flexibility for growth, says Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Community Hospital.

“I think the community is going to be very proud of the facility and the services and care that’s going to be provided,” he adds.

Chris Thomas
Chris Thomas

Construction is under way on a four-story, 136,000 square foot facility near G and 23 1/2 roads that will offer a range of health care services in addition to what initially will be 44 private rooms for patients.

The $49 million project is expected to bolster the Grand Valley economy not only during construction over the next 15 months, but long afterward in adding to what’s become a regional destination for health care services.

“This is a big, big win for economic development,” Grand Junction Mayor Phyllis Norris said during a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility.

To add to the effort, the Grand Junction City Council will earmark $700,000 in its capital budget for 2015 to expand a stretch of G Road to offer better access to the new hospital, Norris said.

The new hospital will replace the existing hospital on 12th Street with a facility that’s not only far larger, but also laid out in a better and more efficient fashion, Thomas says.

The first floor will include an emergency room that’s been enlarged to accommodate what’s been a 50 percent increase in ER visits, Thomas says. The emergency room will be located next to diagnostic imaging equipment as well as surgical suites to help speed care, he said.

The first floor also will accommodate facilities that offer the colonoscopies, imaging studies and same-day surgical procedures that constitute about 70 percent of all services the hospital provides, Thomas says.

While there will be only two entrances to the hospital, a long, curving hallway dubbed the “spine” will offer quick access to various outpatient services, he says.

To further add to the convenience for patients as well as physicians and other health care professionals, the spine also will connect to an adjoining 86,000 square foot medical office building that opened on the site in April.

“We think the ease of access, the convenience to the patients will be unmatched in our region,” Thomas says.
For those patients staying in the hospital, private rooms will be located on the second, third and fourth floors, an arrangement that will offer a more quiet environment, Thomas says.

The design of the new hospital reflects the ways in which Community Hospital differentiates its operation in the types of health services the hospital offers and the way it offers those services, Thomas says.

An entire floor of the new hospital will be dedicated to a new childbirth facility where mothers will remain in the same rooms for labor, delivery and recovery. The new hospital will offer separate parking spots and access for expectant mothers and their families, he says.

The design of the new hospital and size of the campus on which it’s located will offer flexibility to expand the facilities as the need arises, Thomas says.

The emergency room, surgical suite and imaging facilities all can be expanded by building outward. It’s similarly possible to easily double the number of private rooms in the hospital to 108, he says.

The 40-acre site offers ample room not only for parking, but also the construction of additional facilities, he adds. “We’ve got a lot of opportunity for growth.”

While a new oncology center is scheduled to open in December in a facility Community Hospital operates near First Street and Patterson Road, Thomas expects the center ultimately will be relocated to a new facility at the hospital.

Community Hospital secured $59 million in financing for the new hospital through Ventas, a health care and senior housing real estate investment trust. The hospital will cost about $49 million, while the remainder of the loan will cover interest and other expenses, Thomas says. Direct financing offered a savings over a previous plan to raise financing through bonds, he adds.

Shaw Construction, a Colorado company with operations in Grand Junction, will join with Saunders Construction in Denver to serve as general contractors on the project. Thomas says as many local subcontractors as possible will be used, in turn bolstering job growth and spending in the local economy.

Construction is expected to take about 15 months, after which there will be a three-month transition period in transferring services from the old hospital to the new hospital, Thomas says.

In 2011, Colorado Mesa University purchased the 8-acre site Community Hospital occupies at 12th Street and Orchard Avenue, a $7.1 million transaction that helped expedite the construction of the new hospital, Thomas says.

CMU used a portion of the land for a new residence hall. Thomas says CMU could relocate some its health sciences and radiology training programs into the former hospital.

For now, though, Thomas remains anxious to open the new hospital and offer additional choices for health care services, competition he expects to help lower costs.