YOUNGSTOWN - A topping-off ceremony and tours of new emergency rooms Thursday afternoon commemorated the end of the first phase of construction at Northside Medical Center.
"We're so excited. It's new blood; it's new growth; it's a revitalization that will keep our hospital alive," Mary Ellen Vaughan said.
Vaughan, a human resource generalist, has been with Northside since 1981 and was eager to sign the structure's final steel beam, which will be raised in April as the final phases of construction begin.
The $20 million investment into the building's infrastructure began in August and will add 30,000 square feet to the building while revamping about 28,000 square feet.
New state-of-the-art emergency rooms will be about 40 feet from the ambulance entrance, with a nurse's station at the door so patients will have virtually no wait time to make the transition from EMS care to hospital care. Registration will be offered bedside.
Kirk Ray, CEO of Northside Medical Center, said modernizing and privatizing the emergency rooms was one of the top priorities for the construction. With a new ER, he said the hospital is expecting a 10 to 12 percent increase in visits.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Margaret Thompson
Construction workers on Thursday swarm a portion of a $20 million addition and renovation project at Northside Medical Center in Youngstown.
When he first came to the hospital, he said he drove around the building two or three times trying to figure out where he was supposed to enter the building.
"We really don't have a front door," he said. "We want to create a true main entrance."
Michael Smith, trauma coordinator, walked visitors through the new emergency rooms, which will be just beyond the entrance.
"This is the most exciting thing to happen in this institute in the 25 years I've been here," he said.
Above the first level emergency rooms will be pre-admission testing and endoscopy rooms. These will be completed in the next six to eight months, weather permitting.
Rick Hocanson, superintendent of the project for Nashville-based Robins & Morton, said the construction process has gone smoothly so far, with patient care able to continue uninterrupted.
"With operational hospitals you have to take it in stages," he said.
The third phase, which includes tying in the new rooms will be completed by June and final construction is slated for October.
During construction in late September, the local unionized construction workers took a day off work to show their solidarity with the nurses who were striking over their labor contract.
"They took one day off. It's in their bylaws they wouldn't cross a picket line for one day," Hocanson said.
Nevertheless, he said they completed the first phase a week ahead of schedule.
"There haven't been any surprises," Hocanson said. "It's been a smooth process."
The structure's final beam will be available for signing by other hospital staff until the first of the year and then stored until it is raised in April. Traditionally, the beam is raised with an evergreen tree to symbolize good fortune and growth.