BANGOR, Maine — The state has approved Eastern Maine Medical Center’s application to spend $250 million on a major expansion of its inpatient care facility, hospital officials announced Thursday.
“It is a great day,” EMMC President and CEO Deborah Johnson said at a press conference overlooking the expansion site. “We should all be dancing.”
The expansion, which should begin in late 2009, entails construction of a multistory tower where the one-story Stetson Building now stands.
The new tower will allow the hospital to upgrade and expand its patient services, including:
• Modernizing the labor and delivery and neonatal care units.
• Replacing 30-year-old operating rooms.
• Adding 60 adult inpatient beds.
• Creating a new cardiac care center.
CancerCare of Maine, now located behind the site of the proposed tower, will move to the Brewer Professional Center campus on Whiting Hill.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday formally approved the hospital’s certificate of need for the inpatient care expansion.
The state initially had rejected the hospital’s request for a certificate of need for the project. But what Johnson called “an outpouring of support” for the expansion — in the form of letters from hospital physicians, other hospital CEOs, and staff and patients — helped to reverse the rejection.
“I think it’s great for the state,” said Candy Guerette, president of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce. “EMMC is the new regional hospital. It serves such a large need, and it’s phenomenal what this will do for health care across the state.”
Hospital officials said they are particularly happy to bring EMMC out of the 1970s in terms of its facilities.
“It will modernize the 30-year-old labor and delivery area,” hospital spokeswoman Jill McDonald said. “Women are delivering babies in an old-fashioned space.”
The project should be completed by 2012. The hospital — which is a private, nonprofit agency — will pay for the expansion by financing a large portion of it and by “finding a way to cover the rest,” McDonald said.
“The financial climate for health care is a challenge,” she said. “We’ll need to figure it out as we go along.”
That’s why the project plan is phased and flexible, according to McDonald, as well as important to the community.
“it’s not going to be an easy project, … but we feel it’s our responsibility,” she said.
The hospital will be working with the state to comply with certain conditions, including a requirement that the new tower be built according to “green” standards, which was a no-brainer, according to EMMC Facilities Administrator Joel Farley, the project’s head engineer.
“The essence of health care is to have a healthy environment,” said Farley.
Farley said that the construction of the tower, which likely will be eight stories tall and cost $160 million to build, should be a boon for the local economy.
“We want firms that provide experience, price, and will get it in on time,” he said. “All of that being equal, we want to give it to Maine firms.”