Construction will get under way in the spring on the new $91 million Norton Sound Regional Hospital in Nome.
The new facility will be more than triple the size of the existing facility.
"It's needed. It's past due," said Cliff Gray, project manager for Norton Sound Health Corp., the tribal-owned nonprofit entity that owns and operates the hospital.
"One of the largest impacts will be that it will provide a lot of stabilization for businesses. That will be a huge effect, in addition to primary care," Gray said. "The secondary spin-off effect will be the benefit not only to businesses, but landlords and the service industry. It will have a real stabilizing effect on the economy, and take Nome out of the boom and bust cycle."
The current hospital, portions of which date back to 1940, employs about 450 people. With the new hospital, there will probably be a staff increase of at least 100 people, Gray said.
Funding for the new facility was provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as part of a federal economic stimulus plan. The contract itself was awarded to Inuit-NCI, a joint venture of Inuit Services Inc., a subsidiary of the Bering Straits Native Corp., and Neeser Construction Inc., of Anchorage.
Construction is to be completed in 2012.
Meanwhile, Norton Sound Health Corp. is discussing a number of options for using the existing 39,000-square-foot building once all hospital services are moved into the new 150,000-square-foot facility. Uses under consideration include rehabilitation services and assisted living for the elderly, but whatever goes in there has to be for the cost of maintenance of the building.
"We would certainly welcome public input," Gray said.
Angie Barr, an architect with Kumin Associates in Anchorage, said facilities in the new hospital will include primary care, ambulatory surgery, pharmacy, diagnostic imaging, emergency room, public health nursing, dental and laboratory services. The 19-bed hospital includes two beds designated for labor and delivery.
Because this is a replacement hospital, the number of patient beds will not be increased, Gray said. The facility has no long-term care beds.
Hospital administrators did not return calls seeking details.
George Tuckness, senior project manager for Neeser, which has extensive experience in construction of medical facilities in Alaska, noted that the hospital's exterior design combines several systems to protect against the elements and to improve energy efficiency and ease of maintenance.
Foundations for the new hospital are thermal piling, a method used to protect the permafrost below ground. The structure itself will employ 1,800 tons of structural steel in a welded steel frame.
By MARGARET BAUMAN
Alaska Journal of Commerce