Lexington Medical Center recently celebrated the next step of its newest addition with a “topping out” ceremony.
The years-long expansion project saw its final beam, which was signed by hundreds of LMC employees, placed at the top of the 10-story, 550,000-square-foot patient care tower on Nov. 9. The beam carried an evergreen and flag with it when it was lifted into position, essentially signifying the completion of the tower’s skeleton.
The evergreen tree is a symbol of good luck, growth and longevity. The flag symbolizes the construction crew’s pride in the accomplishment.
Birmingham, Ala.-based general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie began pre-construction on the expansion tower in 2014. Groundbreaking for the project was held in May 2016.
“Essentially, it means we’re halfway done with the structure,” said Brasfield & Gorrie vice president and division manager Michael Byrd, who oversees the company’s Charlotte office. “Now we can focus our work on the inside, rather than the outside.”
The tower will have eight floors for patient services. Initially, the hospital will open about 70 beds, with the ability to add more.
“(The) topping out milestone is important to us because it means Lexington Medical Center is one step closer to finishing our clinical expansion and allowing us to have the space to accommodate the expanding health care needs of our growing community for many years to come,” said Tod Augsburger, president and CEO of Lexington Medical Center.
Inside the tower, there will be additional operating rooms, a relocated labor and delivery department, postpartum beds, newborn nurseries, additional intensive care and medical/surgical beds, and space for expanding clinical departments. A special care nursey will feature private rooms for newborns, which research has shown helps lower infection rates and foster mother-child bonding.
With the population of Lexington County increasing rapidly, Lexington Medical Center needs to add onto its facilities to meet the needs of a growing patient base, the hospital said. The 438-bed hospital remains full, with steady growth annually.
Lexington Medical Center delivers the second-highest number of babies – more than 3,700 – in South Carolina each year, performs more than 23,000 surgeries annually and operates the busiest emergency department in the state, according to hospital officials.
The new tower will add eight new operating rooms, increasing the hospital’s total to 39, and the additional beds will give it the ability to care for more than 600 in-patients overnight.
Byrd said the tower project has proceeded smoothly. Construction is on schedule and the project remains on budget despite having to shut down for various weather events such as Hurricane Irma.
“We were lucky we didn’t get the full force of the storm, but we needed to take precautions and make sure our workers were safe,” Byrd said.
Safety precautions are necessary in adding on to a still-operating hospital. Windows have been covered with plywood, lobbies have been secured and new emergency egresses were put into place.
“The hospital is always running, and sometimes the only way out of the building is through a construction zone,” Byrd said. “We also had to make sure to secure the hospital’s data services from the vibrations of the construction.”
In March, Brasfield and Gorrie were ranked among the top general contracting companies in the nation by Modern Healthcare magazine. A survey of construction and design companies ranked the company third overall in health care construction – a field rife with extra complications reflected in the LMC project.
“Along with constructing the main tower, we’re also doing 125,000 square feet of renovations inside the hospital, along with parking decks and other smaller projects,” Byrd said. “We’re touching a little bit of everything on campus, and we want to do it while keeping traffic flowing and not putting patients in harm’s way.”
There are more than 750 workers on the Lexington Medical Center site. Project manager Chas Far said the LMC expansion is much different than a typical construction job.
“This project has spanned the course of several years, so we have mobilized our offices, IT services, basically anything from B&G to Lexington,” Fare said. “This allows us to have day-to-day access to the client and be more engaged, with a hands-on approach.”
The expansion is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
“This milestone is not just for the hospital; it’s for the entire community,” Byrd said. “To be on schedule with a job this size just sets the table for a good run to completion.”
This article first appeared in the Dec. 4 print edition of the Columbia Regional Business Report.