After 20 months of construction, Glen Rose Medical Center officially unveiled its new lobby, emergency room and other improvements Friday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house.

    As Somervell County Commissioners, Hospital Authority Board members, hospital employees and others from the community looked on, County Judge Walter Maynard, hospital Chief Executive Officer Gary Marks and Chief of Staff Dr. Julia Hutchison cut a long red ribbon to celebrate the grand opening.

    About 125 people showed up for the event and to tour the hospital’s renovated facilities.

The project came in $900,000 under budget, Maynard noted. Certificates of obligation to fund the project totaled $14.3 million. The federal government contributed $700,000, most of which went to buy a state-of-the-art, three-dimensional CT scanner.

The hospital also has installed a new digital mammography machine and has received national accreditation for its operation.

    Maynard said the hospital improvements have been “one of the best projects” he’s ever worked on.

    “This had to happen” to stay competitive in an increasingly competitive market, Maynard said.

The judge, who has taken some political hits for his support of the hospital, also reiterated his view that the medical center “can’t be owned by someone else.” That was a reference to Lake Granbury Medical Center, a for-profit hospital whose chief executive officer, David Orcutt, has expressed strong interest in Glen Rose Medical Center, a nonprofit community hospital.

“It’s got be owned by the community,” Maynard said. “It can’t be sold. It just won’t work if we sell it.”

Dr. Hutchison said she enjoys working in Glen Rose because “there’s such a commitment to quality health care.”

“They treat you like family here — frankly, because you are,” she added with a laugh since so many residents are related to each other.

Marks also thanked the community for its support.

“This community had to foresight to commit the funds to quality healthcare,” Marks said. “You all have made this one of the best hospitals in a rural community that you can find anywhere.”

Hospital Authority Board Chairman Larry Shaw said that the improvements means that more citizens can get more procedures done in Glen Rose without having to go to Dallas or Fort Worth. They also could help in recruiting physicians, he added.

The hospital and its more than 200 employees inject more than $9 million into the local economy annually, Shaw noted.

“It’s very important we’ve done this,” he said.

The spacious new lobby features a porcelain tile floor, a curved counter, natural colors and textures, exposed stonewalls and four private admitting rooms. The ER also has a sleek new reception area and private modern treatment rooms separated by walls instead of curtains, as they used to be.

The medical center and hospital board will hold a Town Hall meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, at the Somervell County Expo Center’s exposition hall. Board members will be on hand to answer any questions about the hospital’s operations, finances and future plans. The public is invited to attend.