Wednesday, April 23, 2014
AUGUSTA -- The rolling green hills are gone. The farm-turned-golf course is a distant memory.
WAITING TO WORK: Construction workers stand outside the tent watching a celebration of groundbreaking event Friday morning held near the site of the new MaineGeneral Medical Center in North Augusta. A live video of the event was streamed to all of MaineGeneral’s worksites.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan
THE TIME HAS COME: Scott Bullock, president and CEO of MaineGeneral Health, welcomes people to a groundbreaking event Friday morning near the site of the new MaineGeneral Medical Center in North Augusta. The 640,000-square-foot regional hospital will employ about 450 construction workers, and about $40,000 per hour will be spent during 34 months.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan
PATH TO REGIONAL HOSPITAL
• Summer 1997: Merger of Kennebec Valley Medical Center, Augusta, and Mid-Maine Medical Center, Waterville
• Summer 2004: MaineGeneral Medical Health board adopts regional model for health care
• Summer 2007: Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care opens in north Augusta
• Summer 2008: Board approves plans for new regional hospital in Augusta/renovations at Thayer campus, Waterville
• Fall 2009: State regulators approve plan
• Summer 2011: Financing secured and groundbreaking
• Summer 2014: Anticipated grand opening
Source: MaineGeneral Medical Center
MaineGeneral’s footprint is changing, altering the work sites for Kennebec County’s largest employer and care locations for its thousands of clients.
The sounds of a pile driver, bulldozers and other heavy construction equipment resound from Old Belgrade Road to Interstate 95.
Dust blankets the road and construction vehicles. Trailers used as mobile offices line up in parallel ranks.
This is the site of MaineGeneral Medical Center's new regional hospital. The new hospital will be built alongside the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care and replace the hospital on South Chestnut Street in Augusta and the inpatient operations of the medical center's Thayer campus in Waterville.
On Friday, some 400 people -- medical center employees, politicians, dignitaries, patients and families -- gathered for a virtual groundbreaking at the site of the largest new health care construction project in central Maine, according to hospital officials.
"This hospital is going to change the way health care is practiced in the Kennebec Valley," said Ellen Belknap, president of SMRT Architects and Engineers, a designer of the $312 million project.
"This site is a gift. To be on a green field and build a hospital from the ground up is an extraordinary opportunity."
MaineGeneral Health President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Bullock called the adjacent Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care "a shining example" of what can result from the health care provider's partnership with architects and contractors, the vast majority of them local.
The 640,000-square-foot regional hospital will employ about 450 construction workers, and about $40,000 per hour will be spent during 34 months, said John Scott, vice president of the Winthrop-based H.P. Cummings Construction Company.
"Those are paychecks that will go home to central Maine," Scott said, and likely be spent several times over. "The construction workers on this project are not just building a hospital, they're building their hospital."
More than two dozen of those workers wearing hard hats, steel-toed boots, safety glasses, and fluorescent safety vests, sporting walkie-talkies and measuring tapes on their belts, watched the speeches from outside the tent until Greg Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation, invited them inside to rousing applause.
Powell handed a check for $8.3 million to Mark Johnston, president and chief executive officer of Kennebec Savings Bank, who heads the community fundraising campaign.
The Alfond foundation donated $25 million outright and challenged the community to donate $10 million.
So far, the community response has amounted to $5.9 million. Letters soliciting donations are scheduled to go out within the next few weeks to thousands of households and businesses, Johnston said.
"We want to make sure we leave no stones unturned so everybody has an opportunity to contribute," he said. "What we want is to make people feel they've been a part of it."
"Kudos to MaineGeneral for giving jobs to local people," said Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta. "This is good news for all of us."
Katz said work to provide better access to the hospital from Interstate 95 will allow more development permits to be issued in north Augusta.
Jennifer Riggs, administrative director of cardiology, imaging and women's & children's services for MaineGeneral, described a team of hospital workers, patients and family members collaborating on room designs.
"This was an opportunity to create a place of healing for family, friends and neighbors -- now and into the future," Riggs said.
Afterward, Jean Gauthier, of Waterville, described her experience as a patient and family member on that team.
"We can look at what is difficult now and find ways to make it better for future patients," she said.
Earth-moving at the Augusta site has been under way since the second week in August, when $276 million from the sale of bonds became available.
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click image to enlarge
READY TO BUILD: Ellen Belknap is president of SMRT Architects and Engineers, a designer of the $312 million project to build MaineGeneral Medical Center’s new regional hospital. The new hospital will be built alongside the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care and replace the hospital on South Chestnut Street in Augusta and the inpatient operations of the medical center’s Thayer campus in Waterville.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan