Diagnosing a Need

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 12, 2010

It’s been a long time coming but Lawrence County will again have a 24-hour emergency room in the next two years.

St. Mary’s Medical Center plans to build a 46,000 square foot medical campus in Ironton. This is the first official step forward for the project that was first unveiled two years ago.

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Construction should begin this fall on the St. Mary’s Medical Campus — Ironton, which will be located near the intersection of U.S. 52 and State Route 141. The multi-million dollar facility will open in early 2012. The overall campus is 14 acres. This phase of the new development will use six acres for the building and parking, leaving room for future expansion if needed.

“I am pleased this project has reached the construction stage and I would personally like to thank all those in the community who have helped this come to fruition,” said Todd Campbell, senior vice-president and chief operating officer of St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The downturn in the economy had made it difficult to acquire the funding for the project, causing the delay in the construction start, hospital officials said.

The medical campus will offer a 24-hour emergency department staffed by the same emergency physician group that serves St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va.

In the event that an emergency room patient needs to be admitted to the hospital, the St. Mary’s will also provide round-the-clock EMS transport to a hospital of the patient’s choice.

Approximately 90 percent of emergency room patients never need to be admitted to a hospital, officials said.

There will also be physician offices as well as laboratory and imaging services.

The campus, which is a public/private partnership, will bring with it 50 health care jobs as well jobs for the construction, the exact amount of which will be determined by the construction company.

Bidding for the construction of the two-story building will begin immediately. Bids will be accepted until Oct. 12. The total cost of the project will depend on the construction bids.

The architecture will complement the nearby campus of Ohio University Southern.

“As a lifelong resident of this community, I am extremely excited about this development which will offer quality healthcare services and the creation of new jobs,” Tim Parnell, vice president of support services and development at St. Mary’s.

Site preparation will begin immediately. Several homes have already been cleared from the area.

City officials are in the process of having the 13-acre area surrounding the construction site rezoned as a health care district.

On Thursday, the Ironton City Council passed an ordinance approving the rezoning. Next, the Ironton Planning Commission will have a public hearing on the matter at 5 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers. The hearing will give residents the opportunity to voice their opinions about the redistricting.

While the facility is being constructed, physician offices for two pediatricians and one family practice doctor will be located on the site. The temporary medical offices will be there until the construction is completed.

Several different groups have played roles in making the funding and site acquisition possible.

Lawrence County Commissioners Doug Malone, Jason Stephens and Les Boggs as well as the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, the Lawrence County Port Authority, the City of Ironton and other leaders have been actively involved in the project.