ARKANSAS CITY — For nearly a year, Steve Perkins' office has been in a peculiar setting. His third-floor office at South Central Kansas Medical Center occupies what was originally the delivery room for babies at the 60-year-old building.
This week, that will change.
By the end of Thursday, Perkins, the medical center's CEO, hopes to have most of the hospital operating from 62,300 square feet of new buildings on the northern edge of the Cowley County city.
The new hospital, the square footage of which includes an 11,535-square-foot outpatient services building, is nearly equivalent in size to the one it replaces.
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But Perkins said the old hospital, built in 1951 and expanded in the 1970s, is "woefully inadequate."
For instance, for several years the hospital has operated an MRI unit from a semi-trailer parked just outside the hospital building, which has 26 beds and 200 employees.
"We were trying to make modern medicine in an ancient facility," Perkins said.
Planning for the new hospital and outpatient center — built by Wichita general contractors Hutton Construction and Conco Construction — began more than a decade ago.
Hospital officials said plans were initially made to renovate the current hospital, at 216 W. Birch, in a location partly surrounded by single-family homes.
But those plans were scuttled by the hospital's board of trustees — the hospital is owned by the city — because the renovation would cost more than building a new hospital, officials said.
So plans were struck for building a new hospital, on 168 acres of farmland donated by Don and Wilda Patterson. The land sits on U.S. 77 two miles north of what had been the city limits. It has been annexed into Arkansas City, Perkins said.
In November 2008, Arkansas City voters approved a 10-year, half-cent sales tax increase to pay for construction of the roughly $30 million project.
The hospital and outpatient center encompass about 30 acres. Perkins said a master plan for the hospital and unused portions of the donated land call for the addition of a hotel, medical offices, a restaurant and a retail center.
Perkins said he hopes that someday a continuing-care retirement facility — a center encompassing skilled nursing, assisted living and independent living — can be developed on the land.
The master plan was developed by GLMV Architecture of Wichita.
What hospital officials and staff have ended up with is a facility that they said will allow them to practice modern medicine.
A sprawling lobby and two-story-high atrium includes a large wall constructed of fieldstone, a type of limestone native to the area, hospital spokesman Clayton Pappan said.
The walls of the nursing units are painted in soft greens with dark wood cabinetry and contemporary light fixtures.
The new hospital also comes with $5.7 million in new technology, including a high-field open MRI and a 64-slice CT scanner.
Other components of the new hospital:
* An emergency room with five exam and treatment rooms and two trauma bays
* A four-bed intensive care unit
* A six-bed obstetrics unit
* A surgery area that includes two operating rooms and two treatment rooms
Combined, the medical center's patient rooms total 17 private rooms and five semi-private rooms, as well as a negative pressure isolation room.
Lance Niles, chairman of the hospital's board of trustees who has served on the board for about five years, said the new hospital "gives me chills."
"It's unbelievable," he said. "It makes me realize we're progressing to be a suburban (community) more than just one in the middle of nowhere.
"It's really a step up in the overall design, a step up in the way we are going to approach medicine."
From a business perspective the new hospital sends a message to other businesses about the city's progress, said Niles, who was born and raised in Arkansas City but after college lived for a short time in the Kansas City area and Wichita.
"I was extremely proud of our city commission and community to get behind this project," said Niles, Arkansas City market president for the Stock Exchange Bank.
About 12 miles to the north of South Central Kansas Medical Center is William Newton Hospital in Winfield.
It was opened in 1927 and over the years the original hospital building has been added on to, said Dick Vaught, administrator of the 25-bed hospital.
Vaught said he isn't concerned about competing against a hospital with a much newer building.
"I'm very supportive of the new hospital they are opening," he said. "I think it's great."
Vaught added, "I certainly think there is a place for two hospitals in Cowley County."