Millinocket hospital awarded $2.5M federal loan for upgrades

Posted Sept. 16, 2009, at 10:19 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:13 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Millinocket Regional Hospital needs a new or renovated inpatient unit as well as revamped emergency departments, hospital Chief Executive Director Marie Vienneau said Wednesday.

But more than that, Vienneau said, MRH needs to improve its climate control systems. At least some elements are 35 years old and quite outdated, and were part of an upgrade to the hospital’s 25-bed inpatient unit done in 1975.

“When we put together our facility master plan this year, we found out that our first needs have to do with our infrastructure,” Vienneau said Wednesday. “There is a sense of urgency to do it, but that has more to do with laying the groundwork for future upgrades.”

That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $2.5 million loan to the hospital, as announced Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, is so welcome, Vienneau said.

“We were lucky to be funded,” she said.

The funding will be used to replace outdated systems, including boilers, chillers, distribution systems, generators and electrical systems, Michaud said.

Energy efficiency is a major project goal. Most of the building lacks automated environmental controls, leaving the management of energy systems to manual processes that are difficult to identify and control. This causes energy waste and cost increases, Michaud said.

“This funding will help improve the facility and make it more energy-efficient. This will save costs in the long term and help create local jobs in the process,” Michaud, D-Millinocket, said in a statement Wednesday.

Built in 1955, MRH is a 25-bed critical access hospital that serves as the primary care facility for East Millinocket, Medway, Millinocket and the surrounding territories. The hospital also provides an option for services to Brownville, Island Falls, Milo, Patten, Sherman and Stacyville and their surrounding territories.

The exact cost of the energy upgrade is undetermined. The project is under design by DiGiorgio Associates Inc. of Boston, which provides planning, architecture, engineering and interior design services, according to its Web site, dai-boston.com.

The company also has a Farmingdale office, Vienneau said.

DiGiorgio Associates helped renovate aspects of 12 hospitals and medical centers, including Massachusetts’ Charlton Memorial Hospital, Emerson Hospital, HealthAlliance’s Leominster and Burbank campuses, and Inova Loudoun Hospital of Leesburg, Va., its site says.

The Millinocket Regional Hospital board of directors is likely to vote to accept the funding at its meeting on Oct. 14. If all goes well, the renovation work will go out to bid in November, begin over the winter and finish next summer, Vienneau said.

In July, Millinocket Regional and Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln were among the last of 31 hospitals and medical centers statewide, out of 37, to have helipad construction costs at least partially funded by Maine voters through a $2.6 million state transportation bond in 2003. About $8 million in building costs came from other sources.

When the power plant renovations are finished, MRH officials will consider the next phase of renovations, possibly to its inpatient unit, Vienneau said.

Besides the inpatient wing addition in 1975, the hospital’s entrance area, including its emergency room, operating room and X-ray suites, were renovated and expanded in 1995, Vienneau said.

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