Big changes are coming to Payson Regional Medical Center in the form of a $4.5-million addition that includes two new wings and a Main Street entrance.
"We hope to break ground in late October, and complete the project about 12 months later," PRMC CEO Russell Judd said. "But we're not expanding. We're just replacing all of the medical operations currently located in the old white hospital, known as B-wing. We're licensed for 66 beds and that will stay the same."
One new wing will be a medical-surgical wing, while the other will be a new obstetrics wing and women's health center.
The additions are part of a commitment made by Community Health Systems when it acquired PRMC.
"They made a promise as part of the acquisition to replace all the patient care services in the old building," Judd said, "and when this project is completed, it means that all of our medical facilities will be five years old or newer."
The red hospital, known as A-wing, was opened in 1996, while parts of B-wing were opened back in the 1950s. When the new additions are completed, B-wing will be converted to administrative offices and a maintenance shop.
As part of the new project, which will match A-wing architecturally, the existing kitchen and cafeteria will also be completely renovated. "It will make the kitchen a lot more functional and efficient, and the cafeteria quite a bit larger," Judd said.
To provide access to the new entrance, Main Street will be extended from the Beeline to the hospital. In the process, a few structures, none of which are occupied, will be razed. "No relocations will be involved," Judd said.
One person who can't wait for the new project to be completed is PRMC OB Director Marilyn Gray. "It's going to be gorgeous," she said. "Right now the rooms are small, and the bathrooms have no showers.
The new wing will have four LDRP rooms.
An acronym for "labor, delivery, recovery, and postpartum," LDRP rooms allow the mother to stay in one room during the entire birthing process. "The way it is now, when you have a baby you labor and deliver in one room, and then we move you to another room," Judd explained.
"It means you can really make it a family experience. You're in this big room by yourself, so if you want your mom and your husband and grandpa, you can have them. It creates a family birth center."
According to Gray, it's the kind of arrangement that people want these days. "It used to be that when you were 10 centimeters, we'd say, 'OK, now move onto the delivery table.' That was awful."
Despite the fact that the new OB wing will be state-of-the-art, Gray wants mothers-to-be to know that the current facility is still a great place to have a baby.
"We do everything right now," she said. "We do high-risk OB. We have the fetal monitors. We deliver in the rooms. We have a lot of community services. We have breast-feeding support groups.
"It's just that the building isn't pretty and the rooms aren't as large as we'd like, and that's what we're changing with the new wing."
Some Rim country residents, Gray admits, actually go to the Valley to have babies.
"But people who deliver here love it because it's very one-on-one.
"In fact, we have a couple of people who are actually coming up here from the Valley to have their babies," she said. "They stopped here because they were having some trouble and they liked it so much they're delivering up here.
Both Gray and Judd are confident the new wings will go a long way toward dispelling PRMC's small-town hospital image. As Judd put it, "People say what's the big deal. You're not expanding. You're just replacing.
"But age has a lot to do with perception, and a lot to do with comfort. So these beautiful new rooms and other facilities will be very significant to the person who is a patient here."