Sunday, March 14, 2010




  ETMC-Athens begins $32.4M expansion
Two-year project to add 100 jobs
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–Work has begun to nearly double the size of the Emergency Room at ETMC-Athens.
The $32.4 million project also includes two new larger state-of-the-art surgery rooms with expanded day surgery and recovery rooms, eight new birthing rooms and about 100 full and part-time quality jobs, not counting the employment of area subcontractors during the construction.
ETMCgroundbreaking.jpg (223273 bytes)
Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Four groups of dignitaries, including Henderson County Commissioners, state Sen. Robert Nichols (center) and hospital executives marked a $32.4 million expansion of East Texas Medical Center in Athens with a groundbreaking Tuesday. The original hospital was constructed and opened in 1986 for $31 million and won a prestigious architectural design award. Pictured (from left to right) are commissioner Ronny Lawrence, ETMC executives Gene McIntyre and Jerry Massey, Nichols, ETMC president/CEO Elmer G. Ellis, hospital administrator Pat Wallace, commissioners Jerry West and Joe Hall.

Plans for the two-year expansion project, first announced Feb. 17 ( See Feb. 21 issue of The Monitor), moved forward with a grand groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.
“This is a profoundly important day in the life of ETMC Athens, and will touch many more lives now and in the future,” hospital administrator Pat Wallace said to a crowd of more than 250 well-wishers.
“By executing these plans, we’re upholding the commitment we made to Henderson County back in 1982, when we entered into a partnership with Henderson County, a partnership that continues strong to this day,” Wallace said.
With 16 hospital facilities in East Texas, the ETMC system has always made emergency services central to its mission, ETMC president and CEO Elmer G. Ellis said.
“The growth in emergency and trauma cases over the past 24 years makes the expansion of the Emergency Department critical at this time, as the center serves as a true lifeline for the community,” Ellis said.
“It is no small thing what you’ve done here over the last 24 years,” guest speaker the honorable Sen. Robert Nichols said. “Elmer keeps his promises of long-term health care. Twenty-four years ago, ETMC and this community committed $31 million to build this fine facility, and here you are again making a larger commitment than that.”
Speaking to the medical staff present at the event, Nichols continued. “It’s your quality work and commitment that has made an expansion like this necessary,” he said.
Planned in a series of phases, the project includes expanding the southwest corner (facing Loop 7) of the hospital with a 55,600-square-foot wraparound and the remodeling of about 12,000 square feet of existing space.
The expanded ER will add eight spacious exam rooms for a total of 22, two state-of-the-art trauma rooms and a spacious, private waiting area. Nearby, the Intensive Care Unit is also being reconfigured to include two additional rooms, bringing the total to 10 beds.
The ER entrance will include a completely covered two-lane drop-off to provide shelter for two ambulances and six to eight cars at a time, along with additional parking.
“This will significantly be the front door opening up on the loop,” Ellis said. “I wish I could tell you we chose this spot knowing the loop was going to be here, but we didn’t know. We were just blessed.”
During construction, visitors to the ER, ICU and obstetrics (OB) will enter via a covered walkway. At no time during the construction will any hospital service now being offered be denied, Wallace said. “We will remain open throughout the process,” he said.
Once, ICU is relocated into the newly created space, the OB will expand its current area to include eight additional birthing rooms.
Radiology will also be expanded. Also included in the project are spaces for future expansion and storage in key areas.
Construction has already begun to create more parking spaces and a second helipad to replace the current ones about to be claimed by the expansion. Visitor parking at the front of the hospital is also being expanded and access improved throughout the project.
“We’ve assembled a top-notch team of designers and builders,” ETMC corporate director of plant services Robert Layton said. “Most have worked with us on other system projects.”
Architect Hammel, Green & Abrahamson, based out of Minneapolis, and builder Vaughn Construction Co. out of Bryan/College Station, will be working with interior planner Nori Umemoto Design Associates out of San Jose, Calif.
At the peak of construction, 100 to 130 construction workers will be on site, many of whom will be area residents, Layton said.
“In view of the economy and unemployment rate, this is really a bright spot for this East Texas community,” Nichols said.
“It’s about the future of Henderson County. It’s about your future,” Nichols said.


Mail stolen from post office box, again
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–It’s happened again – the Mabank Post Office’s outside drop box was broken into and mail stolen.
Mabank Postmaster John Lindsey said the break-in probably happened overnight Saturday/Sunday, Feb. 27-28.
“It was certainly after our late collection Saturday,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.
The break-in comes about three months after the Mabank, Kemp and Malakoff post office collection boxes were vandalized. Two other boxes in East Texas, at Doucette and Woodland, also were hit.
For one Gun Barrel City resident, the result of the break-in was a busted bank account, and the likelihood that her identifying information – including her address, telephone number and maybe her driver’s license number – is for sale on the Internet.
The woman, who asked not to be identified in print, said the incident might cost her as much as $7,000.
Her bank is working closely with her to limit her losses, but she pointed out, “There’s no telling what I’m going to be hit with.”
She said she wanted to warn Mabank Post Office patrons not to drop mail in the outside collection box.
“They robbed it once already, and nothing was done about it, so they got it a second time,” she said.
Lindsey said the “bold” burglars cut the hasp on the collection box, probably with a pair of bolt-cutters.
“I’ve replaced it (the hasp) with a hardened steel one,” he said. “I can’t believe somebody would do that right out there on the main street like that.”
The woman was quite critical of the post office not having security cameras, but Lindsey said customer privacy concerns sharply restrict where cameras can be placed, so the U.S. Postal Service, by and large, doesn’t use surveillance cameras.
“The only ones used anywhere are in the lobby to watch the lines, to address service issues,” Lindsey said. “No post office has any (cameras) that I’m aware of.”
Lindsey pointed out the break-in was a very uncommon act.
“I’ve been in a half-a-dozen different offices, and I’ve never heard of it happening,” he said.
“We do have a 24-hour lobby, with two drop slots,” Lindsey pointed out. “When you put mail in there, it’s actually inside the building, and it’s secure.”
Lindsey indicated he was amazed by the boldness of the thieves.
“The rewards of stealing mail are usually not worth the (federal) penalties involved,” he pointed out. “Most letters are just letters.”


VFD, county agree on new contract
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Reports

ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners and the Fire Chiefs Association were able to negotiate a new service contract acceptable to the various fire departments in the county Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, North 19 fire chief Bob Morris took issue with several new provisions in this year’s contract, that he said would force some fire departments to close.
Both agreed to change the requirement to carry liability insurance to “should” carry it.
They also agreed to a general annual audit as opposed to the audit of “all” records, and changed the reporting time from 30 days to between 30 and 60 days.
“I’m very pleased with the changes,” Morris told The Monitor.
With the changes, commissioners easily approved the contract with the county Fire Chiefs Association and its individual member stations.
In other business, commissioners:
• appointed to the Hospital Authority Board.
• reduced the mileage reimbursement rate for county employees traveling in private vehicles on county business to match the state at 50 cents per mile, effective March 9.
• authorized an adjustment to the 2007 Homeland Security Grant, returning $135.88 of the original $227,598 to the East Texas Council of Governments
• granted Virginia Hill Water Supply Corp. the rights to install a water line in the right-of-way of CR 4719.
• heard 4-H ambassadors Joshua Bradley-Chandler; Presley Sanderson-Brownsboro and Caleb and Olivia Wise-Mabank report 322 youths are actively involved in 4-H in the county’s 12 clubs. These conducted about 1600 curriculum outreach programs in conjunction with the schools. Programs such as Farm Safety Day and Take A Stand, a bully awareness project. They also reported two teams competing in the latest 4-H program: Food Challenge, and qualifying for the state contest. Food Challenge is the 4-H version of “Iron Chef” meets “Chopped,” they explained.
• paid bills totaling $209,305.96 after withholding a payment of $19,467.78 to Templeton Construction, due to roofing problems at the newly expanded jail.
• accepted for recording purposes a plat in Star Harbor in Precinct 1.


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