When the doors to ETMC Athens officially opened in 1986, throngs of people gathered for the ribbon cutting. The gleaming spectacle of the new building was
unmatched among rural hospitals anywhere in East Texas. Now, nearly 24 years later, another ceremony has been held: a groundbreaking to usher in a $32.4 million expansion.
“This is a profoundly important day in the life of ETMC Athens,” said Administrator Pat Wallace. “By executing these plans, we’re upholding the commitment we made to Henderson County back in 1982 when we entered into a partnership. The relationship established with the Henderson County Hospital Authority – our landlord – continues strong to this day.”
The two-year project will take place in a series of phases as the southwest corner of the hospital is expanded with a 55,600-square-foot wraparound. Twelve thousand square feet of existing space will be remodeled.
Along with the expansion comes the need for additional employees. An estimated 100 full- and part-time employees will be hired as targeted departments expand.
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More than 25 years of advancing healthercare
“ETMC’s relationship with Athens and Henderson County represents more than 25 years of advancing healthcare to the highest level possible for the community,” noted Elmer G. Ellis, president/CEO of the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System. “This expansion of the beautiful ETMC Athens campus will help us meet the growing needs of the population as part of our mission of care. We are excited to celebrate the groundbreaking, knowing that the new medical space will benefit countless East Texans and our care-giving team for many years to come.”
Among the occupants of the new space will be the emergency department. The new and improved ER will boast 22 spacious exam rooms (up from the current 14), two state-of-the-art trauma rooms and a spacious, private waiting area.
Outside the new emergency room, a multi-lane canopy will provide shelter for two ambulances and from six to eight cars at a time. There will also be additional parking to support the ER.
While construction is under way, visitors entering the building at the second floor (where departments such as the ER, ICU and OB are located) will gain access via a covered walkway.
New ICU, OB and imaging
Occupying the very corner of the new space will be the intensive care unit, which will have two more patient beds than its current eight.
The third department to occupy the new space will be surgery, where there will be a new prep-and-hold area, five operating rooms (up from the current three), a recovery area and day surgery space.
“The ER, OB and surgery represent our most pressing needs, and this expansion project addresses those needs quite well,” said Steve Lowe, director of engineering and safety at ETMC Athens. “All the challenges during construction will be well worth it.”
Once the ICU is relocated into the new space, the OB department will expand its footprint to include the area currently being occupied by the ICU. Among the gains for the OB department will be eight additional “labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum” rooms. The department currently has one LDRP room, which provides a spacious environment where expectant moms can, in most cases, stay throughout their hospital stay. All the existing postpartum rooms will be refurbished.
The radiology department will also expand, thanks to space made available by the adjustment of departments.
Parking spaces are now being added to the back of the ETMC Athens complex, in order to partially compensate for parking areas that will be claimed by construction needs. Visitor parking at the front of the hospital will also be expanded and access improved.
“We’ve assembled a top-notch team from the designers to the construction team,” said Robert Layton, corporate director of plant services for the ETMC Regional Healthcare System. “Most of these team members have worked with us on other system projects.”
The architect for the project is Hammel, Green & Abrahamson, based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The builder is Vaughn Construction Company, LLC, operating out of their Bryan/College Station office. Nori Umemoto of Nori Umemoto Design Associates in San Jose, California, serves as interior planner and designer. At the peak of construction, from 100 to 130 construction workers will be on site, many of whom will be area residents.