11/15/07 — New Cherry Hospital plans on schedule

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New Cherry Hospital plans on schedule

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 15, 2007 2:23 PM

Slightly more than a year after funding was allocated, and nearly three years before the project is expected to be completed, the new Cherry Hospital is moving along pretty much on schedule, said officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Calling it the Eastern Regional Hospital, Terry Hatcher, director of the Division of Property and Construction, explained that officials have completed the building's schematic designs and initial site studies, which turned up clean.

"We were issued a finding of 'no significant environmental impact,'" he said. "At this point we see nothing that will impede us from moving along with a good schedule."

The next step will be to begin work on the actual design and construction drawings.

"We're going to be doing it in stages," Hatcher said.

He explained that state officials hope to begin construction as each step in the design process is completed.

"We'll probably start developing the site, probably next fall if not sooner," he said. "By overlapping the phases, the project can move along a little faster."

It is scheduled to be complete between December 2010 and February 2011.

It will be very similar to the Central Regional Hospital in Butner that is expected to open in January.

"A lot of this is prototypical," Hatcher said. "We've already got one under our belts, so we think this one's going to go very smoothly. And the good thing about this site is that it's flat, which should make things go even more smoothly."

Funding for the project, which is planned to be built on land at the current facility, was approved in the state General Assembly's 2006 budget. The price tag is expected to reach $145.5 million and will be paid for by certificates of participation, which do not require a voter referendum.

It's a project that Cherry Director Dr. Jack St. Clair is excited to see moving along.

He explained that ever since it was approved, he and other hospital department heads have been meeting regularly with the architects and state officials about the hospital's design and development.

The plan is for the hospital to be a three-floor facility with a central spine running down the middle. On one side, he explained, there will be the in-patient residential rooms. On the other will be the day-patient treatment rooms. The best part, he continued, is that it will all be under one roof.

"I think it's a really good design," he said.

And, he added, while the facility will be extremely similar to the facility in Butner, it will still be tailored to Cherry.

"We've been discussing our needs and they're taking all that into account," St. Clair said. "We're working closely with (the architects) the Freelon Group. I appreciate the opportunity to have input into the process."

But, he acknowledged that some of the excitement felt around the hospital last year has begun to fade.

"When the news first broke and the money was appropriated by the General Assembly, everyone was ecstatic about it and we had a lot of discussions," he said. "Since then it has kind of died down. Because so many of the staff are removed from it, it doesn't dominate everybody's discussions."

He expects that to begin to change, though, once site work begins, the foundation is laid and the walls start going up.

"I think that's really going to get everybody excited," St. Clair said. "It won't just be an idea. It'll be real."