November 8, 2013

New regional hospital prepped and ready in Augusta

MaineGeneral’s $312M Alfond Center for Health opens Saturday.

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The opening of the state’s newest hospital Saturday signals a new era in health care and the final phase of the largest free-standing construction project in the region in decades.

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Nicole McSweeney, MaineGeneral’s Director of Marketing and Communications, speaks during an interview this week at the Kennebec Journal in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Chuck Hays, chief executive officer of MaineGeneral Health, speaks during an interview this week at the Kennebec Journal in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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The $312 million Alfond Center For Health also brought with it $13 million in road work and provided a big boost to the local economy for more than two years. Now the four-story structure that has risen on the rolling hills of a farm-turned-golf course will begin the job of providing care for local people.

The hospital staff is primed and ready, the new roadway network is complete, the ambulances are lined up to begin ferrying patients, and everyone hopes everything goes without a hitch Saturday at MaineGeneral Medical Center’s new hospital, which combines the inpatient services of the Thayer Center for Health in Waterville with all the services formerly provided by the Augusta hospital on East Chestnut Street.

Opening time for patients is 6 a.m., but the new facility won’t welcome visitors until 6 p.m.

Gawkers, too, are discouraged from getting too close as hospital officials work to move patients from the old hospital to the new.

“It’s all about patient safety and privacy,” said Nicole McSweeney, director of marketing and communications for MaineGeneral Medical Center.

Among those who are welcome immediately after 6 a.m., however, are women going into labor.

Chuck Hays, MaineGeneral Medical Center’s president and chief executive officer of MaineGeneral Medical Center as well as CEO of MaineGeneral Health, said staff have spent two years planning for the move and had an extensive series of practice sessions, including a mock move to time ambulance runs and routes and to determine the best route within the new hospital to get patients into their new rooms.

“It’s incredibly exciting now to see it all come together and see the incredible facility,” Hays said. “It’s a dream come true.”

The hospital spent $1.2 million training more than 1,700 employees to use the 640,000-square-foot facility.

Hays, McSweeney and a host of other administrative staff members have been working out of the new building for several weeks. The laundry has been operating there, as well as some other services, but the clinical portion ramps up Saturday.

“We don’t want people there just so they can see it all happen,” Hays said. However, in order to keep the community informed, hospital officials promised regular updates on the hospital’s Facebook and Web pages.

Practices in the Scott B. Bullock Medical Building open Monday. They include Augusta Family Medicine, as well as MaineGeneral Gastroenterology, Midwifery, Obstetrics & Gynecology, surgery, Pulmonology and Palliative Care, plus a number of clinics.

The community has had extraordinary involvement and interest in the new hospital at 35 Medical Center Parkway.

Officials committed themselves early in the process to using Maine companies and Maine workers. Occasionally firms banded together to be able to do such a large project, and others partnered with out-of-state firms when specialty work was needed.

At a sneak preview one Sunday in late September, about 12,000 people toured the new building. That number was in addition to thousands of families of employees, construction workers and donors, who were invited a day earlier.

The building project started in August 2011 as soon as financing was secured and involved extensive cooperation between contractors and hospital officials. It benefited from particularly fine weather, and it was finished seven months earlier than projected. Hays said the project is $2 million to $4 million under budget, although bills are still arriving.

Hays noted that this is the first new hospital in the state since 2001. That’s when the $12.5 million Bridgton Hospital opened, as well as the $32 million, 100-bed Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Chuck Hays, chief executive officer of MaineGeneral Health, left, listens as Nicole McSweeney, MaineGeneral’s director of Marketing and Communications, speaks during an interview this week at the Kennebec Journal in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Making progress: This pair of photos shows progress over the course of six months at the front entrance of the new MaineGeneral Medical Center regional hospital in northern Augusta. The top photo is from May 22, 2012; the bottom photo is from Dec. 4, 2012.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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The new MaineGeneral Medical Center hospital is slated to open Saturday.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Nearly done: Left, a September 2007 file photo shows MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta. Right, the new regional hospital is shown, in the background. Below, one of seven operating rooms is shown during a tour May 7, 2013.

Staff photos by Andy Molloy and Joe Phelan

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Good to go: Officials approved a deal to spur development of the intown MaineGeneral site.

Contributed photo

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