Budget may force Bartlett to drop mental health unit from remodel

Hospital officials say need for more mental health beds is growing

Posted: Friday, March 05, 2004

The latest construction plans for Bartlett Regional Hospital may not include a mental health unit at a time when the hospital is seeing an increased number of those patients, hospital Administrator Bob Valliant said.

Hospital and city officials scaled back the construction dubbed "Project 2005" to $31.1 million to meet the hospital's budget. The project will also be divided into two construction phases: a new addition estimated at $25.4 million and $5.7 million worth of renovation work.

"We can continue to function as a hospital given the cuts that were made, but it won't give us the space we need for the future," Valliant said.

These plans represent the latest attempt by hospital and city officials to have a project after being set back by two rounds of bids that came in millions over budget.

The $3 million mental health unit is the only part of the new work that may not happen, city project architect Rod Wilson said. It was slated for the third floor of a new three-story addition to be located on the east side of the hospital.

The mental health unit is being bid as an "additive alternate," which means that contractors will be allowed to bid on it, but the work will be done only if bids come in under budget and money is available, Wilson said. A shell of the unit will be constructed as part of the bid package, allowing the hospital to finish that work later as money allows, he said.

The hospital now has six beds available for mental health patients. The new unit would have provided 12 beds and offered nearly three times the space, Valliant said. When Bartlett is full, those patients are diverted to Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage, he said.

Sometimes as many as 11 patients need beds at Bartlett, he said.

Up to 50 percent of the renovation work was eliminated under the new plans, pending available revenue, Wilson said. Renovation components that will be bid as "additive alternates" are units for chemotherapy infusion, respiratory therapy, a sleep laboratory, cardiac rehabilitation, physical and occupational therapy along with the expansion of other laboratory areas and five rooms that will not be converted from semi-private to private.

The hospital already provides these services but will not be able to modernize the spaces, Valliant said. The chemotherapy and cardiac rehabilitation units won't be moved into permanent spaces, he said.

Renovation work in the bid package consists of the gift shop, the entry to the addition, the area where patients register and the west half of the third floor where double occupancy patient rooms will be converted to private rooms with a bath.

The three-story addition will consist of a new emergency room and units for diagnostic imaging, obstetrics and critical care. These departments - now located in the main hospital - would be increased by nearly 14,000 square feet, under the new project. A new boiler plant would also be installed.

Officials hope to award a bid for the new work by July 25, and it is estimated to take 18 months. A second bid for the renovation would be awarded Jan. 16, 2006, and would be completed by November of that year. If some of the projects bid as "additive alternates" are included in, construction could be extended by as much as nine months, Wilson said.

"It's staying on schedule and budget but the square footage is definitely smaller," Wilson said.

The project was scaled back after the last two rounds of bids came in millions over budget and threatened to delay the project. The last lowest bid came in at $36.9 million in December and was estimated to take 33 months to complete.

About one-third of the Bartlett project will consist of mechanical work, employing about a dozen plumbers, pipefitters and apprentices, he said.

"Local contractors can get the bonds for the job and bid it," said Max Mielke, business manager for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 262 in Juneau. Mielke represents plumbers, pipefitters and apprentices who work for mechanical contractors.

If the Bartlett project overlaps with the building of a second high school in the Mendenhall Valley, local labor will not be able to support all of the need and outside contractors will need to be used as well, City Engineering Director Roger Healy said. The situation could be exacerbated by the awarding of bids for the Kensington Mine this summer and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility this fall.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com

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