December 2, 2012

Sebasticook Valley Health construction helping Pittsfield area contractors through winter

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

PITTSFIELD -- A $9.5 million expansion project at Sebasticook Valley Health hospital is helping some local construction companies to get through the long, cold winter season.

click image to enlarge

Liisa Janelle, community relations director of Sebasticook Valley Health, draws back a curtain in an existing two-patient room at the Pittsfield hospital. An expansion project should help the hospital to combat infections by transitioning to single-patient rooms with individual bathrooms.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Patient dignity, health

While the hospital’s $9.5 million project is boosting the local economy, it is being undertaken largely to improve the standard of health care at Sebasticook Valley Health, hospital officials say.

The 50-year-old building has limited the ability of the staff to provide the best possible care, said Mike Peterson, the hospital’s chief administrative officer.

“Our mission statement includes always treating our patients with dignity and respect,” he said. “Having four people to a toilet just doesn’t cut that.”

Peterson said that the hospital is licensed for 25 beds but sometimes maxes out at 14 patients because patients who are of different genders or who carry communicable diseases can’t be put in the same room.

“We have the equipment, we have compassionate and caring staff,” Peterson said. “The facility has always been the weak link. This is about raising the quality of our facility to meet that same standard.”

The shift is expected to result in healthier patients. Studies have shown that nurses make fewer medication errors when they are in a room with a single patient and that infections are less likely to spread in private rooms.

Liisa Haapanen-Janelle, spokeswoman for the hospital, said the project will better position the hospital to respond to changes brought about by federal health care reform.

“This is not being driven by the Affordable Care Act, but it does enable us to deliver on the standards of the act,” Haapanen-Janelle said.

Under the health care reform act, hospitals will not be reimbursed for the care of patients who are readmitted because of an infection acquired at the hospital, part of a drive to encourage hospitals to address preventable sickness.

-- Matt Hongoltz-Hetling

Hospital administrators said a major milestone for the project was achieved when the steel infrastructure of the new inpatient wing was completed.

"We were literally swinging steel through (superstorm) Sandy," said Mike Peterson, the hospital's chief administrative officer.

Peterson said the plan is that the building's interior will be fully enclosed by the end of the year.

Interior work will continue through the winter for many area workers.

"Of the 22 subcontractors working on this for us, 19 come from Maine and a lot of those come from central Maine," Peterson said.

Peterson said the project's planners purposefully targeted Maine companies.

"We're helping the economy," he said.

Local firms working on the project include Zimba Drywall of Fairfield, Standard Waterproofing of Waterville and Overhead Door Co. of Augusta.

Much of the project is being overseen by Pittsfield-based Cianbro.

Chad Bailey, the project manager at Standard Waterproofing, said the waterproofing job is worth nearly $50,000, enough to keep four or five workers, about 25 percent of the company's workforce, employed.

"This is hitting us during the wintertime, which is great," he said.

The economic downturn of recent years has made every project important, he said.

"Every small job that we get helps," he said.

Ryan Loubier, project manager for Zimba company, said the project means a lot to Zimba.

"For us to be able to work locally and keep a large crew going through the winter, it's a big thing for us. This is going to carry our guys well into the winter. This could keep 15 to 20 guys working there just on that job," he said.

The Pittsfield location is an added bonus.

"I've got a lot of employees in the central Maine area," he said. "I've got guys traveling only 10 or 15 minutes to work for this job, instead of two hours."

He said that the project also has a special meaning for some of the 15 to 20 employees who will work there.

"Some of them use this hospital," he said. "They're happy to be helping a place that helps them."

Both Bailey and Loubier said that the current year has brought more business than last year and that they see the trend continuing.

For the hospital, the work will continue for about another year. Phase one, under way, is the construction of the new wing, which Peterson said is scheduled to house patients by June. Phase two is punching through the exterior wall of the inpatient area. That will happen between March and May. Phase three will be the renovation of the existing inpatient facilities and will continue into November.

With the major purchasing decision complete, Peterson said planners are deciding on details, such as television models, furniture fabric and wastebasket colors.

In March, before the room designs are finalized, a mockup of a patient room will be made out of Styrofoam so the details can be tinkered with in model form before they're all set.

"We can look at the sightlines and say maybe this soap dispenser should be moved here or how close is the blood pressure cuff to the patient," he said.

With a quarter of the project complete, Peterson said there have been no changes in the initial plans, which has helped to keep the project on schedule and on budget.

"We've been very disciplined with the planning," he said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287


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