Post officials plan 'absolutely gorgeous' hospital
This artist's rendering shows a view of the new Martin Army Community Hospital's grand concourse and outdoor terrace.

FORT BENNING, GA - Fort Benning's new $333 million hospital will be an architectural icon that incorporates the latest technological advances in medical facilities and equipment and elevates the quality of life for Soldiers, veterans and their families, the project's resident engineer said.

Alan Bugg, who represents the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the design improves accessibility for patients and staff by cutting down on the time it takes to park and enter the building.

"It's a more efficient layout. All the clinics and related specialties are grouped together and everything will be housed inside the new hospital," he said. "When people go in, they are going to see a state-of-the-art facility that's absolutely gorgeous. It will be much more patient-friendly and doctor-friendly.

"The hospital has been renovated many times in the last 50 years. But the air-conditioning, heat and electrical systems are old. We are really excited about upgrading to a state-of-the-art facility."

The Savannah District awarded the contract Sept. 29 to Turner Construction Company Inc. of Huntsville, Ala. The $333.4 million deal is the district's largest for fiscal 2009.

It calls for construction of a 745,000-square-foot facility to replace Martin Army Community Hospital, the second-oldest in the Army. The project essentially doubles the size of the current hospital, which measures about 393,000 square feet.

Bugg said the new one will be built half a mile west on 65 acres nestled in a "wedge" between I-185 and Upatoi Creek. Following site preparation, construction is expected to begin after the new year and should be completed by the summer of 2013.

The blueprint was drawn up for two wings - an outpatient clinic and hospital section - and equipped with twin parking decks, one for staff and another for patients and visitors. In all, there will be 70 in-patient beds, while parking spaces increase from 1,000 to 2,000.

Terry Beckwith, a spokeswoman for the hospital and U.S. Army Medical Department Activity at Fort Benning, said collocation of departments such as pharmacy, lab and radiology will enhance convenience by allowing patients to receive ancillary services in order.

"While we aren't adding new services, we are enhancing our services and making them more accessible, like bringing the MRI into the hospital," she said.

Bugg said the hospital's operational effectiveness should be enhanced by a single main entrance, private ambulance drive and separate service loading area. In addition, the patient drop-off entry point has an immediate connection to the parking garage.

The architectural design is a mixture of precast concrete, glass and natural stone - offering views of landscaped courtyards, natural lighting and water effects.

Bugg said the latest research shows that nature scenes provide distractions for patients that promote healing, shorten recovery times and reduce reliance on pain medication.

"The setting is a scenic, beautiful site," he said. "A hospital should not be a totally bland and sterile place. Patients need some kind of interaction with nature. It's part of the healing environment."

The location embraces the "medical home" theme, a nationwide shift in health care, Beckwith said.

"Medical home is all about the hospital becoming a patient's home away from home, not only in environment, but also in care and including the entire family in the care plan of the patient," she said. "The all-glass front will face Upatoi Creek for a calm, healing, scenic view. The green space will allow for physical therapy in close proximity to the river. There is even a waterfall incorporated in the design for meditation or quiet relaxation time."

Bugg said the new hospital will receive a dedicated exit ramp off I-185 in addition to the one that now services Marne Road. But there won't be any traffic or road closures in the area because the construction site is on undeveloped land.

The Army hasn't made a decision on what will become of the present Martin Army Community Hospital, which opened in 1958.

Bugg said U.S. taxpayers are "getting excellent value for their money" with Turner Construction.

In the past decade, Turner has completed more than 600 major health-care projects, including hospitals, cancer and heart centers, and medical research facilities, according to the company's Web site. The firm also engineered some famous American sports and entertainment venues during the course of its 107-year history, with Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame among them.

Page last updated Thu October 8th, 2009 at 18:43