With construction complete on Johnson City Medical Center’s $69 million surgery tower, staff are preparing to move into the expanded and updated operating facility.
Jeff Clinebell, Mountain States Health Alliance’s project manager for construction, said Monday that the 156,000-square-foot facility is set to begin admitting patients Oct. 28.
“The month of September is training for all the surgery department team members and other team members that interact with our surgery department,” Clinebell said during an exclusive tour of the new wing. “The month of October will be for stocking and moving existing equipment, then we’ll move the surgery department over the weekend of Oct. 25.”
The main floor of the new building houses an earth-toned wood and stone entry and reception area fronting 16 operating suites and 48 pre- and post-op recovery bays.
Clinebell said the demolition crews recycled about 80 percent of the debris from the previous building and the design incorporates energy-efficient controls and green building materials in an effort to attain LEED certification.
The expansion doesn’t add to JCMC’s number of operating rooms, but increases the size of each room to accommodate the growing lineup of highly technical equipment and staff members needed to perform modern procedures.
A thicket of swiveling lights and control panels on articulated arms sprout from the ceilings of the sterile white rooms, surrounded on all sides by large-screen monitors for displaying vital signs and body scans.
It’s here that the hospital’s robotic da Vinci Surgical System will eventually find a larger home, joined by another marvel of medical science, the Artis zeego.
The zeego is a floor-mounted X-ray imaging machine that rotates around the operating table, allowing surgeons to view 3-D pictures from inside patients’ bodies before, during and after procedures without moving them to a different department.
“You go up to Roanoke or UVA, cities that are twice the size as Johnson City, they have this type of equipment,” Clinebell said of the complicated imaging system. “We should feel really blessed to have this.”
The new surgery department connects to the rest of the hospital through a second-level corridor, allowing patients to move from one wing to the other without passing through public hallways.
Underneath the surgery tower will be the radiation oncology center, in a much larger and more technically sophisticated home than its current location.
Clinebell said the design of the new tower, like Franklin Woods Community Hospital and most of MSHA’s new capital projects, allows for as many as six or seven additional floors to be built on top when more capacity is needed.
“It’s really been part of the plan to leave enough room for us to grow in the future,” he said. “We may not need it now, but as we go along and get bigger and bigger, it will be more cost-effective to build up than out.”
Ground for the tower was broken in February 2012, but the soon-to-be-completed capital master plan began years prior with the construction of a six-story parking garage to replace the smaller parking structure that once occupied the space where the surgery tower now stands.
“When this is finished, we’ll be done with construction projects for a while,” Clinebell said, excluding any work at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital. “It’s taken a lot of work to get everything set just how we wanted it to best serve our patients.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the surgery department is planned for Oct. 25, when officials and other media outlets will get their first views of the completed and fully functioning building.