Glen Rose Medical Center is set to undergo a major renovation and expansion as the local hospital looks to better serve the community and its patients.

On Wednesday, community leaders, area residents and hospital staff gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony to officially kick off the construction project that will give the hospital more space for newer technology and improve patient care.

Gary Marks, president and chief executive officer of Glen Rose Medical Center, says the new construction is the result of a master site plan study that projected future health care needs for a growing community.

“Since our initial construction in 1992 we’ve had a 250-percent increase in emergency room visits,” said Marks. “Newly added services since then have taken over existing space, including nuclear medicine, CT scans, and ultrasound and mammography services.”

Marks said the hospital’s board of directors began discussions to expand and renovate the current facilities three years ago, and now with funding secured and plans drawn, they will start moving forward with the project.

“We embarked on a master site plan three years ago and went through a very detailed planning process to determine future needs for this hospital and the community,” Marks explained. “Based on the master plan this current phase of construction was a priority to meet the growing demand of this medical community.”

The $14.5 million project will primarily be funded by Somervell County through certificates of obligation issued in recent weeks, which will be repaid over a 30-year period.

An additional $300,000 was secured by U.S. Representative Chet Edwards through an appropriations bill to assist the healthcare facility within his district.

The congressman was on-hand Wednesday to celebrate the hospital’s groundbreaking for the new construction, which is expected to continue through the next 16 months.

“The project is basically two phases with the first phase being about 17,000 square feet of new construction,” said Marks. “It comprises a new emergency room that will expand our current four-room ER to a 12-room ER.”

Once complete, Glen Rose Medical Center will have a new, expanded laboratory and pharmacy, and space for medical records, said Marks. “The second phase includes renovating the area that’s being vacated by the departments that are moving into the new area.”

The radiology department will move into the current lab area, said Marks, and the current medical records area will be revamped into a much larger lobby and entrance area.

Part of the changes are required in order for the local hospital to comply with federal privacy rules, said Marks. The renovations will provide for private cubicles for patient registration to meet federal regulations.

Phase one, which will begin in mid- to late-June, is expected to be completed in eight to 10 months, Marks reported. Phase two will take another six to eight months and will begin immediately after the first round of construction.

“This project will help us sustain the current level of treatment and service but also give us the ability to more effectively and efficiently service the patient,” said Marks. “With the projected growth of the area along with anticipation of possible construction at the nuclear power plant, this emergency room will provide the services for more people in our growing community.”

Currently, Glen Rose Medical Center has 16 hospital beds, and Marks says the board will address patient bed needs in the future. “Once this construction process is fully completed, we will re-evaluate our master site plan and address needs again.”

Marks, working alongside the hospital’s board of directors and county leaders, said the cooperation between all involved has allowed Glen Rose Medical Center to remain one of the best rural hospitals in Texas.

“We’ve been Level 4 trauma certified since 1998 and we’re also one of the first 30 hospitals to be designated a Nurse Friendly Hospital in Texas,” said Marks. “We’re also one of the few to receive a Texas Health Care Quality Improvement Award of Excellence for 2007, given by the Texas Medical Foundation’s Healthy Quality Institute.”

As many rural hospitals struggle to keep their doors open, the future looks bright for Glen Rose Medical Center.

“Investing in our rural hospitals is vitally important to ensuring better access to quality health care for our rural communities,” Rep. Edwards, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a recent statement. “The Glen Rose Medical Center provides quality health care for thousands of families and modernizing the Glen Rose Medical Center emergency room will mean improved health care for area families. I especially want to commend local leaders for stressing the importance of this high priority project to me.”

Marks also complimented Rep. Edwards for his work to secure funding for the project, saying “he’s done great things for us and has continued to press on to make sure we’re getting as much support as he can muster up in Washington.”

The hospital’s CEO, who says the project is a key milestone for the future of medical care for Glen Rose and Somervell County, looks for the local hospital to maintain and exceed its level of quality health care.

“For this size hospital we’re probably right at the top of rural hospitals in the state with all we have going on,” said Marks. “With LifeStar based on site, it’s a huge added bonus to the hospital and community. We’re pleased to have them associated with us and their presence here.”

Staff increases, he says, will follow as the patient volume increases, something Marks anticipates happening in the coming years.

“I would say the upcoming expansion will accommodate demand for the next 10 to 15 years,” said Marks. “From the ER standpoint, we have the inpatient part of our operation that will need to be re-evaluated at some point in time, once construction is completed.

“Most everyone moving here is inquiring about medical services. This hospital is an important asset, not only to the medical community’s growth but to the overall growth of the community.”

Marks added that Glen Rose Medical Center is fortunate to be a part of the community and is pleased to be the primary health care provider for area residents.

“We’re happy to have a cooperative relationship with the county and our board has been super in moving this organization forward,” said Marks. “In a community such as ours, it takes all parties to work together for a medical center like this to grow and thrive. For our board and county commissioners, their vision to help the health care services in this community is to be commended.”