Clovis hospital project promises jobs, better care

August 7, 2010 

When construction of the five-story bed tower at Clovis Community Medical Center is finished, it will be the tallest building in the city.

At 90 feet, the bed tower will be taller than the Comfort Suites on Clovis Avenue. And it may be taller than the city water towers, city officials said.

But size isn't the most important part of the hospital expansion. With its enlarged campus -- now taking shape along Highway 168 -- the city's only acute-care hospital is expected to boost medical services and create hundreds of jobs.

"The last of the steel framework was placed on the tower last week, and that was a major turning point," said Dwight Kroll, city director of planning and development services.

Construction at the medical center has been smooth and fast since hospital and city officials broke ground on the $285 million expansion and renovation project in February.

The expansion will nearly triple the size of the hospital and lead to about 600 new jobs when construction is completed in 2013.

The project calls for a dedicated women's pavilion, a special-care nursery and a parking structure with 656 stalls. The garage is expected to be open by the end of this year.

The massive project is part of the medical center's growth plan, which includes a two-story, 22,500-square-foot outpatient care center that opened last year.

The hospital's service area is projected to grow by 15,000 people in the next five years and see a 43% increase in overall growth in the next 20 years.

"It's a great project and will be beneficial to the patients," said Amy Flach, manager of business planning for the Clovis medical center. "We know the Clovis community will grow, and we'll have more patients with more needs. We're excited to be able to help them."

Clovis Community is part of the locally owned, nonprofit Community Medical Centers system, which includes Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno and the Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital.

The project is the hospital system's largest expansion since the six-story trauma and critical care building was built nearly a decade ago at Community Regional in downtown Fresno.

Most of the project is being financed through bonds, operating cash and private donations. A campaign to raise more money to finish the project is ongoing.

The expansion will increase health-care services already available in other local hospitals, such as Children's Hospital Central California, Saint Agnes Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center.

On the west side of the hospital, work has begun to expand the emergency room and the labor and delivery area. The Diagnostic and Treatment Tower on the east side of campus will begin building out soon.

Overall, the expansion will double the hospital's capacity from 109 patient beds to 205 private beds.

The bed capacity is low in all Fresno hospitals, while use is high, said Dan Lynch, director of emergency medical services for Fresno County. The Clovis emergency room has suffered from few beds and little space, he said.

"Clovis has had those growing pains in the last couple of years, but this expansion will really help that," Lynch said. "Any time we can add additional emergency room beds to this community, it will have a great effect."

Once the landscaping around the center is finished, the irrigation system will use recycled water from the city's new water reuse facility, planning director Dwight Kroll said. The medical center is the first private enterprise in Clovis that will benefit from using recycled water, he said.

Kroll and other city officials hope that construction at the hospital will attract other businesses to the area. The city has started a master plan to lay out the foundation for a medical and business park west of the hospital across Temperance Avenue.

The hospital combined with the nearby Central Valley Research & Technology Business Park, north of the hospital, will "set the stage for business generation along the \ 168 corridor," Kroll said.

Clovis Mayor Harry Armstrong agrees and is most excited about all the job opportunities the hospital is creating. The construction project alone is expected to generate 4,000 jobs, about 75% of which will be local labor.

"A major hospital such as Community Medical Centers and the expansion will be a major employer for the area," Armstrong said. "It shows that our community is very stable and will convince other businesses to locate in Clovis."

The reporter can be reached at blee@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6495.

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