Applause broke out as workers fastened the last beam for the Effingham Hospital’s modernization project.
The hospital, along with its contractors, held a topping out ceremony Thursday morning to commemorate the milestone and to celebrate the speed at which work is taking place. Crews began working on the project just after Jan. 1, and hospital officials hope to move into their new space next February.
“Fifty-eight thousand square feet is a lot of new space to us,” said Effingham Hospital and Care Center CEO Norma Jean Morgan.
Walter Murphy of Rives Worrell noted how his grandfather built the original Effingham Hospital more than 40 years ago.
“I’ve been real proud to be involved in this,” he said. “We have gone to extra lengths to make sure local people are involved in this project.”
Crews have been working weekends as well to move the project along, which was a welcome sight to Morgan.
“I came out one Saturday and I was so impressed these guys were working as if it were a Monday,” she said. “I said to one of the gentlemen as he walked by, ‘gosh, I’m impressed that you’re working on a Saturday.’ And he said, ‘Mrs. Morgan, if we don’t do our part, someone else is in line ready to do it.’”
Part of the topping out tradition includes placing a small tree, representing growth and good luck, on the last beam before its put into place. Dozens of Effingham Hospital personnel, hospital authority members and lawmakers signed the beam before it was raised.
“It’s a great day for everybody,” said state Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville). “I don’t know of a county that deserves a first-class hospital any more than this community does. There are great, bright things ahead for Effingham County, and this hospital is one of them.”
State Rep. Jon Burns drew the parallel between the dedication of the people in the current hospital and how that leads to the work being done on the addition and modernization.
“I know of no finer institution and no finer folks anywhere,” he said of the hospital.
The last major renovation to the hospital came in 1993 when the emergency room and care center were expanded. With the expansion and modernization, the hospital plans on adding a dedicated Alzheimer’s wing to its existing Effingham Care Center. It also will add space for current and future physicians, along with bringing hospital operations now housed in modular units under one roof.
The hospital is using financing from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Build America bonds for the $30.9 million project. Those bonds come with a 35 percent interest rebate, a net savings of $13 million over the life of the loan. The hospital also received Recovery Zone bonds with a 45 percent rebate, a savings of $18 million in interest. The hospital’s resulting interest rate is about 3.6 percent.
Hospital Authority Chairman Rick Rafter thanked the doctors and the community for their support in the modernization and expansion and thanked the workers of R.J. Griffin and Company and Rives Worrell Company for their labor in the coming hot, summer months.
“It seems like a major accomplishment at this point, but it’s just a beginning,” he said. “We have a long way to go.”