Bartlett expansion project finally gets low bid

Posted: Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Finally, Bartlett Regional Hospital expansion project has a bid that is close to hospital officials' cost estimate.

Coogan Construction is the low bidder on the scaled-back upgrade.

Bartlett has twice solicited bids that came in too high. The first time was in December of 2002, when the lone bid came in $11 million over the hospital's estimate of $30 million. Hospital managers scaled back the project and put it out for bids again in November 2003, when the lowest bid was $7 million higher than expected.

Bartlett officials further reduced the project - removing some proposed private rooms and reshaping a critical care unit - and estimated it would cost $24 milllion to $27 million. Coogan, one of four bidders, submitted the low bid at $24.3 million.

The Bartlett Regional Hospital Board is expected to consider accepting the bid at its meeting this evening. If satisfied, the board will send the bid to the Juneau Assembly for approval.

"We started talking about expanding the hospital in 1999," said Robert Valliant, administrator of Bartlett Regional Hospital. "It was a long process. I am glad that it is over. If we didn't get a good bid, we would shelve the project."

Coogan was the only Juneau-based contractor to submit a bid. Previous public works projects by Coogan include the Juneau International Airport terminal, Thorne Bay School, Bartlett's administration building and the Juneau-Douglas High School renovation.

Bartlett's renovation project was divided into two phases.

The first phase, which is scheduled to start in August, calls for erecting a three-story addition. The emergency department, critical care unit and diagnostic imaging department will be located in the new building. The first phase of the project will take about 18 months to complete.

The second phase encompasses the completion of a new hospital entrance, renovations to portions of the existing main and upper floors and a connection on the upper floor between the addition and existing hospital. That part of the project will take probably a year to finish.

Nurses and doctors at Bartlett said they are happy that the project is a step closer to reality.

"The hospital was built in 1972. It is getting old," said Robert Urata, a family practitioner who has been sitting on the Bartlett board since 1994. "The computers we have now are bulky and make the already small rooms even smaller."

The new hospital will have bigger rooms and more private rooms. Right now, most patient rooms have two beds with a thin curtain between them. Not every room has a toilet and none of the patient restrooms on the third floor are wheelchair-accessible. None of the rooms has a shower, so patients have to share facilities.

At the critical care unit, nurses have to move a patient's bed to wheel in a portable toilet. After the patient finishes, the nurse has to carry it through a hallway to dump the waste. Sometimes patients' families stay in the hallway because the waiting room is at the other end of the floor.

"The patients don't have a lot of privacy here," said Janice Gray, nursing manager of Bartlett's critical care unit, emergency department and cardiac rehab department. She has been involved in the designing process since 1999.

Having more isolation rooms is important not just for patient privacy but also for disease control.

"An important means to minimize or halt the spread of infectious diseases in a hospital is through the use of isolation rooms," according to a Bartlett expansion project report. "We have seen that admissions of patients with infectious diseases have been on the rise over the last decade. While the number of admissions for various types of infectious diseases was 19 in 1990, that number grew to 74 in 1999."

Gray said although the project has been revised many times to meet the budget limit, she is glad to keep the children's waiting area in the emergency department and the family benches in the patient rooms.

"It will be nice to have a place not so frightening to children," Gray said. "We provide good service with the limited resources we have. But with the new facilities, we will be able to make our patients happier."

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