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Posted: December 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

NMC ER expansion delayed

Half of extension project completed in Sept.

 The expansion of Newton Medical Center’s Emergency Department has been postponed due to the inability to secure financing for the project from the still unstable financial market.

The first half of the expansion project, which moved the hospital’s laboratory to the third floor to make room for a larger emergency department, was completed in September.

Troy Brooks, chief financial officer of NMC, said no date has been set to resume construction work on the project.

"We will continue to monitor the pertinent factors involved and make a decision at some point in the future when the time is right to pursue this project," Brooks said, adding that to pursue the project now would require a high level of borrowing by the hospital at interest rates that remain unstable due to the current economic crisis.

The project is estimated to cost $5.4 million.

"Additionally, our hospital and others around the nation have seen some slowing in activity levels especially where elective procedures are concerned," Brooks said.

Once work on the project resumes construction is expected to last approximately 16 months.

The project was originally conceived to accommodate a rising number of emergency department visits and to service the growing population of the county. The department sees roughly 36,000 patients each year, of which between 5 and 8 percent are in need of immediate medical attention.

The renovation and expansion of the emergency department was expected to add eight new treatment rooms. The department currently has 17 beds including four cardiac beds and five trauma beds.

The hospital expansion is just the latest in several Newton County projects to be affected by the turbulent financial markets. The hotel/civic center project has been postponed due to an inability to secure commercial loans for the hotel and the extremely high cost of taking out bonds to finance the building of the civic center by the county and city of Covington.

The interest rate on the bonds taken out by the Joint Development Authority to finance the purchase of land for Stanton Springs also went up this past fall. That resulted in a decision by the JDA and the Newton County Board of Commissioners to switch insurance providers in order to lower the rate.

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