LUMBERTON — Public officials, doctors, engineers, architects and investors gathered Tuesday to break ground for a $22.2 million facility that the president and CEO of Southeastern Regional Medical Center says will usher in a “new era” of health care in Robeson County.
“We’re very excited,” Joann Anderson said. “This is a day we’ve been waiting for for a long time.”
The 80,000-square-foot facility, set to be completed late 2013, is the first phase of Southeastern Health Park located at 4901 Dawn Drive, an expansion to the hospital’s main campus in the Tanglewood community. The medical center, Anderson said, has been forced to find new sites on which to build because the current location is “landlocked.”
“We’ve gone up as high as we can with the building, and we don’t have the land to be able to grow out,” she said. “We have property owners all around us. So anything in terms of expansion on that particular site really isn’t going to happen.”
The new facility’s primary feature will be a 13,000-square-foot ambulatory surgery center, which can take in any outpatient procedure — such as those for orthoscopy, cataracts or ear tubes — that doesn’t require an overnight stay in the hospital. Anderson estimated that 50 percent of the hospital’s surgeries could be performed at the new location.
“This is going to allow us to be much more efficient from an outpatient surgical perspective,” Anderson said. “Right now, if a patient comes in for outpatient surgery and we have an emergency case that comes in through our Emergency Department, that outpatient gets delayed — so they have to sit and wait until the emergency situation is taken care of. If they’re scheduled here, that won’t happen.”
The building will also include a comprehensive orthopedic center, a gastroenterology center, pre-admission testing for outpatient procedures, an anesthesia center and outpatient rehabilitation, all of which the hospital currently has but are spread out among different buildings.
According to David Sumner, vice president of Human Services and Planning, a new pain management clinic within the facility may create a few new jobs, but the main goal is to add space for current medical staff.
“Cases that may take four hours to do in the hospital, they might can do them in a third of the time, because the facility is more convenient and more efficient,” he said.
Sumner said the facility should bring more people to the hospital who would otherwise be turned off by long wait times.
“I think it’s going to be a convenience for our patients, and their families,” he said. “We believe it will be a draw to use our services rather than go elsewhere in the state … hopefully it will eliminate a lot of the travel that some folks may be doing now getting to an ambulatory center that may be say, 100 miles away.”
The 26-acre site, on an Interstate 95 service road between exits 20 and 22, has plenty of room for expansion. Anderson said that future projects she would like to see include an orthopedic center, women’s pavilion and diagnostic center.
“I think this is the right thing for the community, and for the future of medical care in this region,” said Dr. David Dalsimer, an orthopedic surgeon and one of the seven local physicians who have invested in the new facility. “… The goal of the hospital and the physicians alike is to provide the best service possible to the area. It should be a win-win for everyone.”
SRMC’s board of trustees approved the project during a planning conference earlier this year, and the City Council approved a conditional-use permit for the site in June.
“I think it’s a wonderful expansion of our medical facilities in Robeson County and this area, we are so pleased to see it,” said Councilman Don Metzger, whose precinct encompasses the site. “The location is ideal because it gives us a gateway to 95, and it will just enhance our community in so many ways, not only the jobs, but the service to the citizens, and the surrounding area and this is truly becoming a regional facility.”