Harrisburg Mayor Tim Hagler let out a loud, enthusiastic cheer before speaking to the crowd at Carolinas HealthCare System’s groundbreaking for a free-standing ER.
During the Feb. 27 ceremony, Hagler, who was born at Carolinas Medical Center–NorthEast in Concord, said his excitement for the project had been building for several years .
“This project’s been a very long time coming,” said Hagler. “My goodness, it seems like it’s been ages since we met in Town Hall and kind of rolled out the paperwork on this.”
The state approved CHS’s Certificate of Need application in October 2007. Development was delayed, however, while Harrisburg worked with the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County to extend water and sewer lines to the site during the economic downturn.
The $20.2 million emergency department, which has 23,689 square feet, is being built at 9592 Rocky River Road in Harrisburg, just off Interstate 485 across from Harris Teeter.
It is expected to open in early 2014 and employ 45 to 55 full-time workers. Roughly half of the employees are expected to be nurses and care providers; the rest will include support staff, such as security. Board-certified emergency room physicians will provide medical direction and lead the staff.
Hospital officials said the emergency department will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The facility will have six treatment rooms, a CT scanner, a full-service lab and a helipad to transport patients, among other features.
Carolinas HealthCare System’s first health-care pavilion with a free-standing ER in the region opened in Steele Creek in 2009. CMC-Waxhaw opened in 2011, and CMC-Kannapolis and CMC-Huntersville opened in 2012. The ER in Harrisburg is modeled after those health-care pavilions.
Officials at the ceremony said those development projects have greatly exceeded patient visit projections. The Kannapolis location was projected to see 12,500 patients its first year but saw more than 20,000, said Phil Whitesell, CHS marketing director.
The Carolinas HealthCare System touches the lives of roughly 11 million people a year, according to officials who spoke at the event.
Phyllis Wingate, president of CMC-NorthEast for the past three years, has worked with CMC for 10 years.
“Harrisburg was a geographical area we felt was underserved,” said Wingate. “Pavilions have become almost a preferred solution, and we’ve seen that in the response in the communities where we’ve already built these facilities.”
CMC’s free-standing ERs are equipped to meet a wide array of patient needs, said Wingate. Patients often have shorter wait times than at hospital ERs, and the facilities help reduce some of the activity at emergency departments attached to hospitals.
“I think there’s a lot of excitement building around it, particularly from the people of Harrisburg, but also from the people throughout (CHS),” said Wingate.
Town Council member Brian Leepard called the project a blessing for Harrisburg.
“Not only is it good economically for the town because of its much-needed tax base, but it is bringing a much-needed service to the area as well,” he said. “The people of Harrisburg will be able to stay in Harrisburg and … get some of the medical attention they need without traveling into Charlotte or surrounding areas.
“Usually the big negative in this situation is traffic. However, the way we have laid out the zoning, … the proximity to (Interstate) 485 mitigates the negative impact of the traffic.”
CMC didn’t receive any tax incentives for the development, but the town helped expedite expansion of the Fuda Creek sewer line with the Water and Sewer Authority, said Leepard. The town will be repaid for the expansion.
“There was a concerted effort to get the sewer line installed, which helped the hospital get built faster than it otherwise would have,” said Leepard.
The town also is helping buy easements along Rocky River Road for installation of the water line that will serve the facility, said Leepard, but CMC is paying for the construction of the line.
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