Southwest Health System celebrated the completion of the new emergency services station with an open house on Friday.
Nunn Construction finished work on the EMS station at the end of July, but it took about a month to put the finishing touches on its interior and move in emergency personnel, Southwest Health spokeswoman Haley Leonard Saunders said.
During the open house, about 200 people from the hospital staff, the Southwest Health System board of directors, disability services program Community Connections and other interested groups filled the station’s large garage.
The EMS station is part of a $32 million expansion at the hospital that will also include a new inpatient wing, a retail pharmacy, a new medical office building and additional parking by the time it’s completed in 2018.
Southwest Health System paramedics started operating out of the EMS station at the end of August. The building contains three bedrooms, a kitchen, a gym, a training room and enough garage space for five ambulances, including two new vehicles the station acquired this summer.
Emergency personnel used to sleep near the hospital’s emergency room during 24-hour shifts, and paramedic Cate Harding said it will take time to get used to having their own building. But both she and paramedic instructor Scott Anderson said the ability to park their ambulances indoors will be a benefit when winter comes. The vehicles previously parked outside, and sometimes had trouble starting during cold weather.
“It’d be really cold walking out of the hospital, into a cold ambulance, and the ambulance was struggling in zero, 10 below,” Anderson said. “It delayed our responses, delayed a lot of stuff. Now they have control over the environment.”
At the open house, the hospital’s catering staff served hot dogs to guests, while employees from Moose and More served ice cream. Kent Rogers, CEO of Southwest Health System’s board of directors, helped man the grill. He said the opening of the EMS station is a big step forward for the hospital.
“We needed a good place to operate,” he said. “It makes a big difference to the care (patients) receive, and it determines a lot of what their outcome is.”
The next phase of the expansion is to renovate the hospital parking lots near North Mildred Road. Kevin Wehmeier, a project engineer for Nunn Construction, said repaving them is a priority this fall.
“We’re trying to get to this parking lot before the asphalt plant closes,” he said.
Construction crews spent most of this summer working on the back side of the building, so all traffic was directed to the front. Starting in mid-October, that will be reversed. The side of the hospital campus facing Mildred Road will be closed for about six months, Saunders said, so traffic will be redirected to the emergency room entrance at the back of the hospital, which can be accessed through Cottonwood Street and East Hospital Drive.
Saunders said the project is on schedule, and she expects the entire hospital expansion to be complete sometime next summer.
“Nunn Construction is amazing,” she said. “We’ve been really lucky, because they’re working around a working hospital ... so they’re adapting to us and going with the flow every day.”
She said guest services personnel will continue to be available throughout the construction project to help patients navigate the campus.