Grand new medical center in Rifle |

Grand new medical center in Rifle

Carrie Click

The big, new hospital under construction in Rifle officially has a name: the Grand River Medical Center.

Kris Swanson, spokeswoman for the Grand River Hospital District, confirmed selection of the new name Thursday.

The new facility is being called a medical center since it will replace Rifle’s Clagett Memorial Hospital and contain physicians’ offices, an outpatient walk-in clinic, and a rehabilitation center.

Those facilities are currently scattered around Rifle. The 40-year-old Clagett building is on East 5th Street, and a medical clinic sits across the street. The rehabilitation center is in downtown Rifle.

Because the new medical center is essentially housing three of the district’s facilities, at 62,000 square feet, it is nearly double the size of Clagett, which tops out at 32,000 square feet.

“Having these medical facilities centralized in one location is going to streamline health care here, and allow us to be very efficient with our resources,” Swanson said.

Grand River Hospital District proceeded with plans to build the new center after passing a bond issue in November 2000 to attain funding to upgrade its medical facilities.

“We looked at remodeling Clagett, but we just didn’t have enough room on that site to add on what we needed,” Swanson said. That building is surrounded by houses and overlooks a steep bluff.

The new site is expansive. The hospital district purchased a 23-acre parcel of land south of Interstate 70 less than a mile from the Rifle exit. Swanson said the new facility’s close proximity to the interstate was another key consideration in choosing the site.

“We deal with a lot of medical emergencies from accidents on I-70,” she explained.

The new center, designed by Davis Partners Architects, is quite an improvement over Clagett’s rectangular, dated 40-year-old building.

The Denver-based architectural firm specializes in municipal and medical buildings and also designed Rifle’s fire station and the Municipal Operations Center in West Glenwood.

Construction crews from FCI Contractors of Grand Junction have completed much of the outside work on the new building. A rounded façade, intricate masonry and textured tile work are nearly finished. Most of the remaining work is on the inside.

Swanson said the project started last November, and crews are only 13 days behind schedule.

“We had a couple of short weather delays,” she said, but weather won’t be an issue now that crews are concentrating on the interior.

Because the building is on schedule, Swanson is confident the center will open as planned in late spring 2003.

“We should be seeing patients by May,” she said.

During a tour Thursday, the building looked like it was really taking shape.

The center faces north, towards I-70. The medical clinic and physicians’ offices are located to the right, while the rehabilitation center and administrative offices are in the center.

The hospital, licensed for 23 beds, and emergency room sits to the left. In the back, a cafeteria with a wide-open porch will allow patients and visitors to look out towards the south and see elk herds that pass through the area, said Swanson.

Everything is still at the concrete floor and drywall stage throughout the building. Workers on Thursday were walking around on drywall stilts, taping sheetrock and applying mud to the seams.

The ceilings are still exposed, revealing the center’s intricate electrical and duct systems, and a makeshift drafting table in the middle of the massive building holds a set of well-worn blueprints detailing the building’s complicated innards.

Outside, the parking lot has been paved, and the helicopter pad located just steps away from the emergency room entrance is now finished.

“At Clagett, the Flight for Life helicopters have to land in one of our parking lots, which can sometimes be a logistical nightmare,” Swanson said. “We’re fortunate to have room for a dedicated space for helicopters at the new center.”

Swanson said staff members slated to move into the new facility are “very ecstatic.”

She said it’s also been easy to recruit new employees because of the new center’s state-of-the-art facilities, including an upgraded lab, a sunroom for patients, modern nurses’ stations, improved rehabilitation equipment, a better ICU set up and a room dedicated to birth and delivery,

Because the hospital district funded the $16.5 million center with bonds, the expensive and expansive medical center is being built without raising citizens’ property taxes. Swanson said the construction will be repaid over the next 20 years with taxes already being collected.

As for Clagett Memorial Hospital, and the medical offices across the street, Swanson is not yet sure what will happen to them. The district owns those properties, but leases the rehabilitation facility downtown.

“The hospital would make a good place for offices since we’re completely wired for electricity, computers and telephones,” she said. She’s not sure what will happen to the properties’ zoning, however.

“It might make more sense for someone to purchase those properties and tear the buildings down,” she said. “They’re in a residential neighborhood, so they might lend themselves to a housing development.”

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