Wednesday, June 9, 2010

1,500 Attend Hospital Groundbreaking, Construction Underway

About 1,500 people attended Owensboro Medical Health System's official groundbreaking for its new hospital Saturday morning.

It's about two miles from its current location, but Bonnie Brown called it an "incalculably large leap" for some to undertake.

Brown, the manager of pastoral care at OMHS, said when the new hospital is built in 2013, the community will leave a place on Parrish Avenue that's "been a presence for over 70 years, and the safety of the familiar, and the sacredness of so many events that we've all experienced (there).

"It's difficult to imagine a new place and a new way to be, breaking through that crustiness of the way things have been in the past, and breaking through to something new," she said.

The Daniels Lane site is a 150-acre plot that will be home to a nine-story, 447-bed facility, costing $385 million. Thus far, the ground has been cleared and leveled with steel expected to rise in the fall, according to Merrill Bowers, the project manager from Nashville's Turner Construction.

Saturday's event included a 5K walk/run in which more than 1,100 people took part. It started at the current OMHS campus and concluded at the new site just off Pleasant Valley Road.

Jeff Barber, the hospital's president and CEO, walked the 5K and quoted Confucius: "The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step."

"We took a lot of steps today," he added. "It's good to know that along the way, you have others committed to make the journey with you."

The free community event on the northwest corner of the property also included games, activities and music before officials got down to the business of praising OMHS' vision and commitment to the new facility.

Finally, about a dozen groups representing different areas of the community, such as churches, schools and, of course, OMHS and elected officials, turned dirt with ceremonial chrome shovels.

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie told the crowd that Washington is "struggling with cost and access" to health care, but it still comes back to "care and service."

"As wonderful as this building is going to be, it's still about the doctors, nurses and staff who really care about the patients," Guthrie said.

State Sen. David Boswell said the state-of-the-art hospital will "contain the cost of health care through integrated technology and advancements in early detection and prevention."

Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne noted that the city is "on the move, unlike so many others, which are struggling just to meet their basic needs."

"We have close to $700 million of public projects funded and underway, creating an economic impact of over $1 billion, and an estimated 11,000 construction jobs, and the hospital is the biggest project on that list," he said.

Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire referenced the history of local medical care, saying, "Over 100 years ago, the German immigrant community here built the first hospital in Owensboro on the outskirts of the city across the railroad tracks at the intersection of Parrish and Triplett streets. And now, we're beginning a new chapter in healing for this community, on the outskirts of the city, beyond the railroad tracks."

Twice throughout the three-hour celebration, trains on nearby tracks rolled past, punctuating Haire's remarks.

"Out here, on ground where food was grown, healing will take place, for this is healing earth," Haire said.

Rich Suwanski, 691-7315, rsuwanski@messenger-inquirer.com