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Columbia Business Monthly

Lexington Medical Thinks Big

Jan 02, 2018 10:07AM ● By Emily Stevenson
By David Dykes

Lexington Medical Center’s three-year expansion project, billed by center officials as the largest hospital expansion in state history, will be woven into the fabric of Lexington County and the Midlands and is expected to help meet the community’s health care needs for many years to come.

A 545,000-square-foot patient tower, to open in 2019, will have 10 floors plus a mechanical penthouse. Initially, the hospital will open about 70 beds there with the ability to open more in the future.

Inside, there will be additional operating rooms, a relocated labor and delivery department, postpartum beds, additional intensive care and medical/surgical beds, and space for expanding clinical departments.

One of the tower’s unique features will be a 20-bed special-care nursery, where the hospital’s tiniest patients will have private rooms, says Tod Augsburger, the medical center’s president and CEO. That is a new model of care for the hospital. Research has shown that private rooms for special-care infants provide more bonding opportunities for mothers and their babies, offer a safe environment for education, lead to better outcomes for babies’ growth, and lower infection rates, medical center officials say.

The 438-bed hospital anchors a health care network that includes five community medical and urgent-care centers and employs more than 6,500 health care professionals. The network has cardiovascular and oncology care affiliated with Duke Health, an occupational health center, what center officials say is the largest skilled nursing facility in the Carolinas, an Alzheimer’s care center, and approximately 60 physician practices in dozens of locations.

“We like to think we’re a large integrated system with a single large tertiary-care medical center,” Augsburger says. “And that’s a little different. There are markets around and hospitals around that are building smaller hospitals in new markets. That’s not our strategy.”

The center operates one of the busiest emergency departments in South Carolina, expected to treat nearly 90,000 patients in 2017. The hospital also delivered more than 3,700 babies in 2016 and performed more than 20,000 surgeries.

The 438 beds normally are full, with some ER patients held there while they wait for a hospital room, Augsburger says. “Being at capacity, and having been at capacity for several years, led the board to begin design of what’s our expansion plan – how we can provide more capacity for the citizens of Lexington County and the Midlands.”

Demographic forecasts call for the Midlands population to double from about 750,000 now to 1.5 million in 30 years, Augsburger says.

The expansion, combined with an associated medical office building that recently opened on the campus, will cost $430 million. It will be paid through $130 million in cash and investments and $300 million in new debt.

Medical Center officials are investing $6 million in road projects to help improve traffic flow in and around the expanded facilities at Interstate 26 and U.S. 378, often a crowded and congested interchange.

The expansion reached an important milestone in November with a ‘topping out’ ceremony, occurring when the last beam is placed atop a structure during its construction. The beam for the new patient tower contained the signatures of hundreds of medical center employees.

Brasfield & Gorrie is the project’s general contractor and construction manager. Perkins+Will is the architectural firm.

Contractors and the hospital’s engineering services team have collaborated since medical center officials broke ground in 2016, says Michael Greeley, the center’s vice president of operations.

All below-ground fiber, domestic water, sewer, drainage, electrical, and gas services for the northwest side of the main campus have been modified, relocated, or removed to accommodate new buildings. In addition, the hospital added backup electrical systems to its data center to increase the systems’ reliability during construction.

Above ground, five buildings have been demolished. Concrete piles were installed to support the new patient tower, parking garage, and central utility building (CUB). Structural steel has been erected for the tower and CUB and five cooling towers have been installed on the CUB’s roof. The utility tunnel serving the new tower includes chilled water and steam piping.

Through November, more than 700 workers on site had worked a total of 1 million man hours on the project, without lost time due to injury.

At the halfway point in construction, disruptions had been minimized by software advances and techniques such as pre-fabrication of large building pieces and most of the major mechanical infrastructure, Augsburger and Greeley say. 

“It’s taken a pretty huge effort,” says Brasfield & Gorrie Vice President and Division Manager Michael Byrd, who oversees the company’s Charlotte office. “Everything has gone, for the most part, as planned.”

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