Posted on

New hospital raises concern over what to do with old

With Harrison County Hospital’s anticipated move to a new facility less than eight months away, officials are seriously considering the use of the old buildings off Atwood Street in Corydon.
The original structure was built in the 1950s and several additions were made over the years, with asbestos used in part for insulation. If removed or handled improperly, fibers from asbestos can escape into the air, lodge in the lungs and cause lung damage, including cancer.
‘The asbestos is not a problem unless renovation is done on the building,’ said James Goldman, chair of the three Harrison County Commissioners, which are responsible for county owned buildings.
‘How much of a problem, I really do not know; usually (it’s) money!’
That’s just one of the reasons the commissioners earlier sought guidance from RQAW, an Indianapolis-based architectural and consulting firm, in determining the best use of the building, Goldman said.
‘All of this is just concern at this time,’ Goldman said. ‘RQAW is aware of these developments and will include them in their final analysis of the buildings.’
He said, ‘The cost of maintaining the old hospital, in my opinion, is just too costly for county government. How much could that be reduced if we demolished the oldest sections, I do not yet know.
‘Rest assured, we do not intend to just let it sit there. But I do not believe that the buildings will be the answer to the space needs for the county,’ Goldman said.
The hospital, constructed in 1950, was added onto in 1957, 1965, 1971, 1984 and 1988; medical office space was added in 1981 and 1995, said HCH executive director Steve Taylor.
That facility has about 95,000 square feet of useable space whereas the new will have 140,000.
‘That may change, too,’ Taylor said, considering modern building codes and privacy requirements. Twenty thousand square feet (mainly space for future expansion) were cut from the initial plans due to earlier concerns that the hospital was ‘over-building.’
Another concern is the cost of maintaining the old building plus utilities. Those expenses alone run $400,000 to $500,000 a year, but that includes operating 24/7, Taylor said.
He anticipates completion of the facility in northwest Corydon before the end of the year and moving patients into the building about Jan. 17. The move itself should take just hours, but coordinating the move is another matter.
Taylor said an Oregon company which has moved more than 25 hospitals has been hired to handle the transition.
So far, the project is expected to cost $47 million for engineering, construction and financing. That figure includes $10 million in equipment. Construction, expected to take 23 to 25 months, began in October 2005, so the project is now on time and under budget, Taylor said. That could change, though, considering increases in technology and equipment costs.
Funding includes $12 milllion in riverboat revenue paid at $4 million a year for the last three years. The Harrison County Community Foundation contributed $5 million toward the costs. The balance is to be paid with municipal bonds to be retired with hospital income.