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New hospital for McDowell on the way
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New hospital for McDowell on the way

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Within the next few years, McDowell County will have a new hospital.

In an interview with The McDowell News, Lynn Boggs, president and CEO of McDowell Hospital, said Thursday a new building will replace the existing one at 430 Rankin Drive in Marion. The new McDowell Hospital will be constructed on the same campus where the existing one now stands.

McDowell Hospital is a part of Mission Health System. But when it was built in the early 1980s, the hospital was not affiliated with Mission or any other larger hospital or health system. And much has changed in the health care and rural community hospitals since McDowell Hospital first opened in 1983.

For some time, Mission Health has looked to replace the hospital in Marion with a more up-to-date facility,

“This hospital is over 30 years old and a lot of the infrastructure is failing,” said Boggs.

Mission Health has made improvements to the building and has also looked into renovating the entire structure. However, the cost of renovating the current hospital is estimated to be $31 million.

“Even then, we would not have a current facility because so much has changed in recent years,” said Boggs, adding the hospital for McDowell County will place a great deal of emphasis on growth and ambulatory care.

“We know we have to be prepared for the future,” she said.

A more modern building will have more room for ambulatory care which includes the emergency room and outpatient services. It will also have larger inpatient rooms.

“Our patient rooms are half of what they need to be in size,” said Boggs.

A new hospital building will contain more operating rooms, too.

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For some time, Boggs and other Mission Health officials held community forums to find out what the needs of the local community are. They weighed the costs and benefits of renovating the existing hospital versus building a new structure altogether. After it was decided to build anew, they looked at various sites around McDowell County for a new hospital.

Rumors circulated about the new hospital being built on either Ashworth Road or Sugar Hill Road.

“We looked at 13 sites and at the end of the day, we came back here,” said Boggs. “We ended up back on this campus.”

The other sites required too much in the way of land development and site preparation. The new hospital will have an estimated cost of $35 million but it will be one that will last well into the 21st century.

Design Strategies of Charlotte is the architectural firm working on the project. For the next 10 to 12 months, schematic drawings will be developed before construction actually begins. The new hospital will be built in front of the existing one. When the new McDowell Hospital is ready, the old one will be demolished. The main parking lot will be located behind the new hospital and it will be much flatter than the current one, which is on a hill.

Boggs said the biggest complaint heard about McDowell Hospital is the parking area. “It’s incredibly difficult for our patients,” she said.

Boggs estimated it should take 18 months to construct the new hospital. It should be ready for use around two and a half years or three years from now.

Of course, there will have to be easy access to the current building while construction of the new one is in progress. The work will be done in phases in order to allow access.

The current building is licensed for 65 beds but it averages around 21 patients staying there overnight. The hospital now has two full-service surgical suites. The new one would have 30 beds and three operating rooms. These beds will be in larger rooms. The new operating rooms will be housed in a separate building connected to the main hospital building. Like the existing hospital, the new one will have an urgent care center.

Mission Health will fund the majority of the cost of construction but around $2 million to $3 million will be raised locally. “We will look for support from the community,” said Boggs.

In addition, more meetings will be held to get feedback from local residents. While other rural hospitals are struggling and closing their doors, McDowell will have one that will be ready for the future.

“Everything that is planned is very state of the art, very contemporary,” said Boggs.

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