The $30 million project will increase the hospital’s bed capacity from 145 to 175 and double the size of the hospital’s critical care unit.
(Doster Construction photo)
In north central Alabama, construction continues on a four-story tower and expanded emergency department at Cullman Regional Hospital. The $30 million project will increase the hospital's bed capacity from 145 to 175 and double the size of the hospital's critical care unit.
"Population growth in Cullman County has been significant over the last 10 years, and that growth is anticipated to continue," said Jennifer Malone, the hospital's director of marketing. "It's important for Cullman Regional to invest in and expand its facilities today, so that we're able to care for our growing community."
The project will extend the west bed tower by 84 ft., which will enable the hospital to add 13 new critical care and 12 medical/surgical patient rooms. The project includes previously completed renovations to existing spaces which created five additional beds, for a total of 30 new beds.
"Both the ED and the tower expansion projects are addressing current and future capacity needs," said Malone. "Our community is growing and having these projects under way now means we will be able to continue to meet the region's healthcare needs."
Malone noted the significance of doubling the size of the critical care unit.
"More critical care beds enable Cullman Regional to provide that level of care to more patients. This will be essential for the community as the population grows, and if we see another surge in COVID hospitalizations."
According to the hospital's website, during the final months of 2020 and into 2021, Cullman Regional's critical care unit reached a capacity of 200 percent. That means there were twice as many patients as beds available. This was reportedly the highest capacity of any ICU in the United States.
The ED project began in February 2021 and should be complete this summer.
"We're proud of the progress in the ED and are looking forward to celebrating the completed project this summer," said Malone.
The new ED will feature a larger, more modern patient lobby and increase capacity by 80 percent.
"Providing positive patient experiences and quality healthcare are priorities for the hospital. A new and larger ED lobby and additional treatment areas will help us do both."
The tower expansion construction began in January 2022 and is expected to be finished in late 2023.
"It's imperative that North Alabama healthcare systems like Cullman Regional invest in facilities, technology and talent to meet the future healthcare needs of our rapidly growing region," said Cullman Regional CEO James Clements. "We're thankful for a visionary Healthcare Authority Board that believes in our hospital, and for our partners in progress — Doster Construction and TRO."
TRO Jung Brannen Architects was selected to carry out the hospital's vision for the new construction, while Birmingham-based Doster Construction serves as the general contractor.
As for the condition of the site before work began, Bobby Morris, director of plant operations and construction of Cullman Regional said, "The active ED was not meeting our current community needs."
The space needed for the additional beds was an unused courtyard. The retaining wall and utility relocations were completed before construction of the main building could begin.
"Doubling the size of the critical care unit requires an addition to the main hospital building that will extend from the fourth floor all the way to the ground floor," said Morris. "Infrastructure, such as electrical, plumbing, mechanical and data must all be expanded."
Eliminating the possibility for moisture intrusion is the biggest challenge for crews because the facility is maintaining operations that coincide with construction.
Currently, interior finishes are being performed in the ED, while cast-in-place stair tower, foundation and structural steel matters are being addressed as work continues on the four-story structure.
ED Phase 1- 2B work has been completed, as have four-story site work and site retaining wall construction.
The four-story tower work has involved drilled pier foundations, structural steel, brick exterior, the cast-in-place retaining wall and five-story cast in place stair tower.
Noise control has not been an issue for crews; however, when expanding and constructing medical facilities, water intrusion and dust/debris control where new construction ties into an existing space remain chief concerns.
Morris said the elements also can cause problems.
"Weather is always a concern when starting an addition from the ground up. We build in a certain amount of rain days, based off the past rain percentages for those months. Any additional rain days that may actually be experienced would add to the overall schedule of the project."
Doster Construction senior project manager Jacob Odom said that a 130-ft. ballasted tower crane is being used on the project and is considered crucial in setting steel, constructing the retaining wall and completing the five-story stair tower. It's also needed for flying air handling units to the second floor, setting materials on elevated levels as they are constructed and working on elevated concrete pours. The crane allows for the safest and quickest method to complete vertical construction activities.
Other heavy equipment on the project includes lulls, skid steers, buck hoists, concrete trucks, pump trucks and excavators. Materials include steel, brick, concrete, sheetrock and paint, along roofing materials, windows and doors.
For Doster's crews, who represent one of the nation's top healthcare contractors, working on the hospital project is extremely rewarding.
"It's a privilege to have a hand in constructing a facility that will care for the health and well-being of so many individuals and families," said Odom.
Malone added, "For Cullman Regional employees, physicians and stakeholders, the expansion projects are exciting and a source of pride. The investment in our hospital is an investment in the community, and that's very rewarding.
"We hope these projects help our future patients and visitors feel confident about the quality of care they can receive at Cullman Regional."
Established in 1939, Cullman Regional Medical Center is a fully accredited 145-bed medical center owned and operated by the Healthcare Authority of Cullman County and serves more than 150,000 residents in a six-county service area. The hospital, a Level 3 trauma center, features a medical staff of nearly 200 physicians and specialists, employs nearly 1,000 and delivers close to 1,000 babies each year.
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