September 23, 2020

St. Joseph Hospital plans addition

When Mother Mary Angela founded the Felician Sisters religious order 139 years ago in Poland, her concept of helping the ill and disadvantaged didn’t require much in the way of medical technology.

But carrying Mother Angela’s vision into the 21st century means that St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor needs to spend about $20 million on a three-story addition on Center Street, and on renovations to the 1964 building.

Work on the two-phase project could start as early as next January if the hospital is successful in getting all the needed local and state permits.

Three years ago, the hospital opened a three-story wing of administrative and medical offices. This $1.6 million expansion and renovation project also moved the main entrance to the hospital from Center Street to Broadway.

New patient-care space wasn’t part of the last expansion, and now space is at a premium.

“All of our ancillary services have really outgrown our 1964 building,” Sister Mary Norberta, executive director, said Wednesday afternoon.

The addition would provide new inpatient and outpatient surgery areas, a new emergency room and two patient floors. The majority of the new patient rooms would be private rooms, although there still will be semiprivate rooms.

Private rooms are really the wave of the future, Sister Norberta believes. And especially when a patient is acutely ill, “the family needs privacy,” she said. Today’s hospital rooms need to be bigger to accommodate medical equipment that didn’t exist when the hospital was first built.

The second part of the project will be renovating the current building, converting those rooms to private rooms also. Patients would no longer have to share bathrooms with those in the next room, and more patient lounges would be available.

The hospital did look at other construction alternatives, including adding another floor on top of the current building. Having a taller building “with the same inefficient `L’ design” did not seem to be the best plan, she said.

By reconfiguring the space, outpatient services can be reorganized also. “The trend in outpatient services is to make them more patient-friendly,” she said, having related departments near one another so that the patient does not have to go all over the hospital to be served.

The hospital will find out this summer if the state will grant its Certificate of Need this year, Sister Norberta said. The proposal is technically not an expansion of services. In fact, even with the new building, the hospital will reduce its bed capacity from the 130 it is licensed for to 112.

By the end of June, the hospital hopes to empty part of its first floor on the Center Street side. It is going to be leasing 12,000 feet of space in the Department of Motor Vehicles building on Stillwater Avenue for some services. Some departments will play “musical buildings” for a time until everything is in its new home.

Hospital officials hope to raise $3 million of the $20 million needed for the project from the community, Sister Norberta said. Community members already are making commitments to help with the fund raising this fall, and the employees and the St. Joseph Auxiliary have shown enthusiasm for the new project.

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