McAlester hospital starts emergency department expansion

McALESTER – Emergency care in rural southeastern Oklahoma is getting an upgrade with designs reminiscent of the newest urban hospitals.
The changes will help McAlester Regional Health Center meet modern demands to improve patient satisfaction and reduce the stress associated with an emergency department visit.
The contractor’s agreement follows general construction industry trends to ensure no cost overruns. The $11.8 million project is guaranteed to be completed on time and on budget, said hospital CEO David Keith.
Hospital staff members, industry trade group representatives and government officials celebrated the kickoff of the new emergency department project Friday. Preliminary work is scheduled over the next two months, but the Oklahoma State Department of Health has not yet approved the designs, Keith said.
The design was modified since financing was completed in May. There will be 14 treatment rooms instead of 18, and a planned laboratory in the basement will be redesigned as its own project, Keith said.
Initially McAlester hospital officials planned to have a fast-track out of the emergency department to an urgent care section, for patients who don’t need critical or immediate treatment. Instead, Keith expanded the urgent care center and added office hours. Heath care providers are also educating patients on when to use the emergency center and when to visit urgent care instead.
“That reduces the footprint for the ED and improves patient convenience,” Keith said.
Now that space will be used for corridors dedicated to patients and visitors. Separating patient foot traffic from staff traffic helps cut down on noise, improves patient privacy and can help create a less stressful experience. Keith said he saw similar designs, centered around the patients’ needs, at urban hospitals in Tulsa, Norman and Oklahoma City.
Kansas City, Missouri-based construction firm McCownGordon is using the industry practice of guaranteed maximum price. If the project’s costs exceed $11.8 million, the builder pays the overruns. Both the hospital and the firm share savings if the project is completed for less. That can ensure the firm uses the hard-surface materials that are easier to disinfect, even if those materials are expensive.
“They can’t come back and say, ‘we need to reduce costs, so we’re using laminate instead,’” Keith said. “It doesn’t work that way.”
McCownGordon operations director Daniel Lacy said his company’s staff was in discussions with the hospital during the design phase. That helps control the budget process and provide more accurate estimates for materials early on, he said. The guaranteed max price model is more collaborative approach, he said.
Keith said the project should be completed by summer 2018.

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