Starkville — The four phases of the Oktibbeha County Hospital’s expansion project are moving along as planned. The 96-bed public medical facility is now in phase three and will begin the final phase in August.
Administrator Arthur C. “Sonny” Kelly says the expansion will triple the space of several ancillary services, including surgery, radiology, laboratory, emergency room and respiratory therapy.
“We were so short of space. Just about everything is increasing,” he said. “We will have 110,00 square feet of new space and 56,000 square feet of renovated space. Our last increase was in 1984. It was planned to hold us for 10 years, but it didn’t.”
Kelly said the present emergency room was designed for 7,500 patients per year and is currently treating 21,000 patients each year. That space is being significantly increased. He said hospitals all over the country that provide emergency services are experiencing increases. The Oktibbeha County Hospital is the only hospital in the county and must provide this service.
“All services at the hospital are increasing because the county is growing at a rapid pace. We grew about 15% over the last decade,” he said. “We’ve had several successes lately with new high-tech industries coming here. We want to make sure we keep up and give people looking to locate here a hospital that’s first rate.”
He says a hospital is part of a community’s quality of life issues that industries consider. He feels the whole area has more growth expectation and notes that the other two hospitals in the Golden Triangle — Lowndes County and Clay County — are growing, too.
In addition to new industries coming in, Starkville draws retirees because it is a state-certified retirement community. Mississippi State University continues to bring young people to the county. “It’s not any one thing that’s pushing our growth but a number of things,” Kelly said. “We will provide medical services for all.”
Of the hospital’s current $30 million building program, he says more than $20 million is for actual brick and mortar. The patient rooms were built in 1973 and no new rooms are being added in this expansion. Kelly says a need to upgrade them has been identified for a project that will become phase five. At that time, instead of adding more rooms, the rooms will be made larger.
“We don’t anticipate needing more rooms but don’t want to go below the 96 patient beds we now have,” he said.
Nor is there any additional space in the obstetrical department included in the current building project. “We were not able to include that now. It will be a good phase five project, too, and I think the community will support it,” Kelly said. “We are in the baby business and deliver 1,000 to 1,200 babies each year.”
The hospital has five birthing suites, which are furnished like a home to help make the labor and delivery process more relaxing. Special services include classes for expectant parents, siblings and breast feeding, an infant information phone line, and a maternity and infant fair.
The current construction has been on schedule so far, and Kelly says he’s been pleased with the way it’s gone. “I won’t say it’s been easy for everyone, but we’ve had no problem yet of blending the old with the new,” he said. “We’ll hit that later when we get to the renovation part and have to move everyone out. That’s still ahead of us.”
He says that phase of the project may test the construction manager. “Hiring a construction manager to run the project was the best decision we made,” he said. “We haven’t used this concept before. It’s been amazingly easy this time. I’ve been out there on the project twice.”
White Construction Company is in charge of the expansion and renovation project that was designed by Pryor-Morrow Architects.
A primary care facility, Oktibbeha County Hospital has more than 12 medical specialties, 500 employees and almost 100 staff physicians. Kelly, who’s been the administrator for 30 years, says 40 to 45 of those physicians live in Starkville. Others in the area have consulting or courtesy privileges.
The hospital’s Web site describes the facility as a progressive, rural hospital providing capable, compassionate care. Kelly says that’s an accurate description. Along with in-patient and emergency room care, the hospital has a comprehensive wellness center and conducts numerous community education programs.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.