Board wants new hospital
Hospital Authority hires architect, discusses growth
By Tara Derock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Members of the Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority exited the closed portion of a special called meeting last Friday and voted to hire an architect to draw up plans for a new hospital, to be located on the site of the current hospital.
“The whole board decided—it was a unanimous decision,” said Chairman Terry Evans in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “It’s very exciting.”
Authority Secretary Jim Markley was likewise pleased with the board’s decision.
“We pretty much made a quantum leap forward, as far as I’m concerned,” said Markley. “The fact that we decided to stay in the same place is monumental.”
Any new plan would likely involve the construction of a new building with an emergency room, operating room and radiology center in the first phase, said Morgan Memorial CEO H.D. Cannington, allowing the hospital to remain open while construction is carried out. Operations could then switch to the new facility while the old building is either razed or renovated in a further phase of development.
The hospital board has in recent years considered a number of options for the future of Morgan Memorial Hospital, which is located on Highway 278 in Madison. At one point the board had been offered two different parcels of land—one on the Highway 441 bypass around Madison, and one on Highway 441 just south of I-20—by generous donors, but both land deals fell through. The hospital also considered simply renovating the building that it currently occupies, but that option, too, was deemed too expensive and unworkable for a variety of reasons.
Now, following a recent in-house financial analysis indicating that the hospital is in a strong borrowing position, the board has decided instead to determine how much land adjacent to the existing hospital is available and engage an architect—Earl Architects of Greenville, SC—to determine whether the current site is indeed workable. Hospital auditors Draffin & Tucker will work concurrently with the architect to ensure that the financial numbers are sound.
“We’ve asked for preliminary drawings for a new hospital to be built on the existing site, and to look at pros and cons and cost estimates of [building there],” said Cannington. “The idea is to find out if it will work.”
“The plan is for [architect Rick Earl] to do the preliminary analysis…and if we can build it here, and the board approves it, we would be looking at building a new hospital.”
Ground-breaking on such a project could happen as early as this summer, said Markley. The architect, who has worked with Morgan Memorial before and is familiar with the hospital and its current building and situation, could have a proposal and preliminary drawings together within 60 days.
“If there’s any way we can put it here, we want to do that,” said Cannington. “That’s what I’m hearing from the board.”
Agrees Markley, “I think most people want us to stay [on this site].”
The decision to move ahead with a new hospital could not come at a better time, as Morgan Memorial has been filling its beds with local patients in recent days. On Tuesday, the hospital had 39 patients in rooms. With a total of only 41 beds in the hospital, that means they’re at capacity.
“We have been full—we’ve been swamped,” said Cannington. “There are a lot of sick folks out there, and they’re coming here.”
Dr. Eddie Cossio, chief of medical staff at the hospital, says that now is the time.
“The hospital is full,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve had patients waiting overnight in the emergency room for a bed; another one of my patients is being treated [in the waiting room].”
“It’s time for a new hospital,” said Cossio. “There’s no more looking back.”