Smithfield Herald

Hospital expansion moving fast

The Christmas tree atop the steel beam is a symbol for good luck.
The Christmas tree atop the steel beam is a symbol for good luck.

The expansion of Johnston Medical Center on N.C. 42 West marked a milestone this past week.

Last week, hospital leaders watched a crane slowly lower the last 10,000-pound steel beam onto the frame of the patient bed tower.

“This project is going quicker than we thought, and we are excited to have reached this milestone,” said Chuck Elliott, chief executive of Johnston Health.

Hospital leaders haven’t changed their target completion date, which remains January 2015. But they say the project is a few weeks ahead of schedule thanks in part to steel fabricated in North Carolina.

In a ceremony Dec. 2, a Christmas tree rested on that final steel beam, which came from a company in Rocky Mount.

“According to an old Scandinavian tradition, it’s for good luck,” project manager David Philyaw said of the tree.

The season called for a Christmas tree, but by tradition, any tree will do for the “topping out” ceremony, which affixes a tree to the last piece of the frame. In days when such buildings were made of wood, the tree made up for trees cut down for construction.

Traditionally, the construction workers share a toast and pause for a meal. That was the case last week, when workers were treated to a meal from McCall’s in Clayton.

The three-story tower, with 92,000 square feet, will house 50 inpatient beds, including a ground-floor women’s center with labor and delivery rooms, a nursery and a room for C-sections.

The $50 million construction project began in October and is now 8 percent complete. In just over a year, Johnston Medical Center in Clayton will be a full-service hospital.

Johnston Health says the Clayton expansion will create 100 jobs.

In addition to the inpatient wing, the hospital plans to renovate 5,000 square feet in the existing building. The project will add a cafeteria, a cardiology department, nine more exam rooms in the emergency department, space in radiology for nuclear medicine, a special-procedures room and a surgery suite.