03/29/13 — Cherry Hospital behind schedule

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Cherry Hospital behind schedule

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 29, 2013 1:46 PM

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Work on the new Cherry Hospital has fallen behind schedule due to problems with an electrical subcontractor, the quitting of the project manager and a series of bomb threats that held up work a dozen times.

Despite a building that looks largely completed from the outside, construction of the new Cherry Hospital on West Ash Street is about four or five months behind schedule and is now not expected to be complete until the end of the summer.

When the project began in 2010, construction was slated to be completed by late 2012. That deadline, however was pushed to the spring of this year due to a variety of delays.

Now, said Julie Henry, acting director of public affairs for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, those issues and others are forcing the completion date to be pushed back yet again.

"And that is the construction completion," Ms. Henry said. "Actual move in will be several months after that."

That means, she said, it would be at least December before staff would be caring for patients in the new three-story, 410,000-square-foot psychiatric facility.

The delays, she explained, really come down to three big problems -- all of which were unexpected and out of the state's control.

The first was with the electrical sub-contractor, which had been defaulted by the general contractor and had to be replaced.

"They were not performing the way they wanted them to, and because the electrical affected a lot of the other work that had to be done, that put everything behind schedule," Ms. Henry said.

The second problem was that the original project manager quit several months ago, "creating a ripple that affected the project," she said. And the third problem came from the 12 bomb threats that plagued the project from late 2011 to mid-2012, forcing work to be stopped and sub-contractors rescheduled each time.

Fortunately, Ms. Henry said, Luckey Welsh, the director at Cherry Hospital, has experience with large construction projects and has been doing a good job keeping the staff prepared for the eventual move.

And while the new facility will require more staff and will allow Cherry to treat more patients, they had not begun to expand their bed numbers or begin the hiring process yet, and so for now, the current facility is still running the same as ever.

"The money is in the budget and the money will be there when the hospital opens and we do make those hires," Ms. Henry said.

So, she said, state officials are encouraged by the fact that soon they will have three new, state-of-the-art psychiatric facilities -- Central Regional in Butner, Cherry, and Broughton Hospital in Morganton, where construction has begun.

"(Cherry) might be a few months behind, but the end result will be a very positive one for the people of eastern North Carolina, the patients and the staff," Ms. Henry said.