12/28/07 — Cherry plans on schedule, officials say

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Cherry plans on schedule, officials say

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 28, 2007 2:18 PM

State officials have said that despite the recently discovered design flaws at the nearly completed Central Regional Hospital in Butner, the new Eastern Region Hospital in Goldsboro is continuing to progress on schedule, and in fact, will likely be better for these earlier problems.

"Plans are proceeding as scheduled," said Mark Van Sciver, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. "Any safety issues that were raised are being addressed and anything we've learned will be applied in the construction of the new hospital."

The new Eastern Regional Hospital, which is expected to replace the current Cherry Hospital in early 2011, is still in the early stages of development.

So far, the building's schematic designs are done and all the environmental site work is complete.

"We were issued a finding of 'no significant environmental impact,'" said Terry Hatcher, director of the state Division of Property and Construction, in November. "At this point we see nothing that will impede us from moving along with a good schedule."

Currently, they are working on the actual design and construction drawings.

And, Van Sciver explained, it's during this stage that they hope to address the issues discovered at the facility in Butner, which the new Cherry is being modeled after.

"A lot of this is prototypical," Hatcher said in earlier discussions. "We've already got one under our belts, so we think (Cherry) is going to go very smoothly."

And, Van Sciver added, they don't foresee that status changing now.

According to reports by The News & Observer in Raleigh, the problems discovered at the 435-bed Butner facility included hazards that could allow patients to harm themselves, rooms that are too small, inefficiently designed oxygen lines, the need for lock boxes for fire extinguishers and plumbing for roof drains.

Hatcher, however, explained that the walk-through that discovered those problems was informally done by an inspector not familiar with the hospital's operations.

He also explained that many of those problems were either already in the process of being fixed or were not problems at all. For example, he continued, the rooms that were listed as too small are actually 30 square feet bigger than required.

"There were really no major things we're looking at," he said.

Other concerns about a lack of patient bed space and a lack of employee office space and parking, Hatcher continued, were not problems with the design, but rather the information the design was based on. He explained that once work began in 2005, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services began adjusting their needs upward, but that it was too late to make any changes.

"It was designed exactly as it was planned," he said. "Once you've got a foundation and walls going up, it's a little late (to make changes)."

The Eastern Regional Hospital, on the other hand, was originally planned for 227 beds. Today that number is up to 304.

"We've already increased and built size into this one," Hatcher said.

Still, he acknowledged that the concerns that have been raised at Butner will make for a better facility in Goldsboro.

"We're going to use the lessons that we have learned, but everything is moving along," he said. "Everything is going very well at this point. We're actually moving along a lot faster. I think we will have a better product for the Eastern Regional Hospital."

Both hospitals are being designed by architectural firm Freelon Group of Durham, with the help of Cannon Design of Arizona, which has experience building psychiatric hospitals.

Cherry Hospital Director Jack St. Clair also explained earlier that even though the new hospital's design will basically be the same as the one opening in February in Butner, it is being tailored to Cherry's specific needs.

"I think it's a really good design," he said. "We've been discussing our needs and they're taking all that into account."