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Hospital turns to building plans

"Island County voters said yes in September to a $5 million construction bond that will expand and remodel much of Whidbey General Hospital. But it will likely be the spring of 2001 before any real building gets started on site.There's a lot of work that has to be done between now and then, said Doug Bishop, the hospital's chief financial officer. Hospital construction is some of the most complex and expensive there is because of a myriad of special regulations, codes, approvals and backup systems.Bishop said the first step is to fill out all the paperwork to price a bond and turn it into operating money. That will probably take until early December. In the meantime, all the rough drawings of the remodel are being turned into detailed plans that can be used by contractors and inspectors to put a price on construction.One unknown in the process is the length of time it will take to get the state Department of Health to review and approve the plans, said Bishop. The department's review process is meticulous and gets right down to things like the number of outlets on the wall, he said. The City of Coupeville will also have to approve the plans. Once approved, the project can go out to bid. Bishop said that if all construction bids come in over budget the hospital is required to start the process over. If, on the other hand, there is a clear winner, construction can likely begin about a month after the bid is awarded.Construction itself will take a little longer than normal too.Part of the problem is that we have to stay operational. It has to be a phased project, said Bishop, alluding to the fact that the hospital can't just close its doors while construction is taking place. The remodel is complex. It will be tricky at times.The $5 million bond approved by voters is expected to pay for the remodeling of about 20,000 square feet of the existing hospital and the addition of about 6,000 square feet of new space. Departments slated for expansion include cardiac rehabilitation, diagnostic imaging and medical ambulatory care. A new hospital entry is also planned as is a special family room for those seeking privacy and quiet time. "

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