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Old hospital at Robins AFB getting full renovation

By WAYNE CRENSHAW - wcrenshaw@macon.com

February 20, 2015

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- The oldest part of the medical clinic at Robins is about to undergo a major renovation.

The $29 million project will update a 70,000-square-foot building that opened in 1967 as a hospital. Today, the medical services on base are all done on an outpatient basis. Much of the old hospital is used as administrative offices. Instead of cubicles, people work in what used to be hospital rooms. It's not an efficient use of space, but folks have their own restroom. The renovations will remove all of the interior walls to redesign the layout, said Steven Taylor, facilities manager for the 78th Medical Group.

Located at 1443 12th Avenue South, the Midtown Hills Precinct is home to 125 police personnel. They serve a 47.2 square mile area, carved from the South and West Precincts, which includes the communities of Edgehill, Green Hills, Forest Hills, Oak Hill and Crieve Hall, as well as Vanderbilt, Belmont and Lipscomb Universities. As part of the realignment of precincts, the area covered by the Hermitage Precinct decreased, as well.

It's a heavy renovation," he said. "The roof is getting replaced. The outer walls and foundation are staying and that's about it." Even the exterior brick is being replaced, as well as the windows. The building should blend in better with the new part of the clinic that opened 15 years ago. If it sounds like it might have been just as well to just raze the old building and start from scratch, Taylor said that's not the case. A new building would have cost $90 million or more, a total that Congress would have been unlikely to approve, Taylor said.

Preparations for construction are underway, including the setup of a temporary 15,000-square-foot modular building. Actual renovation work is set to begin March 18, and it will be done in four phases over two years. Clinic users shouldn't be affected much, especially during the first phase. That will mostly impact the administrative offices, which will move into the temporary building while that part is done. Most patient services are provided in the newer building, and that isn't part of the renovation, so everything done there will go on as usual during the project. The old building also houses radiology, the lab and mental health services. Mental health is the biggest patient service that will be affected, and that will move to the temporary building in phase three. Even then, any moving will be done on weekends and signs will direct people to the new location, either within the building or in the temporary building.

"No services will be interrupted," said Col. Shari Silverman, commander of the 78th Medical Group. "It should be seamless, except for some parking and things moving around. We are open for business throughout this whole construction project." Silverman said it will be the biggest facility improvement for the clinic since the new building opened in 2000. The redesign of the interior will be less sterile and more customer friendly than the current setup, Silverman said. There will be a new main entrance with a lobby area and patient care areas up front. She said it will be like a medical mall and will be much easier for patients to find where they are going.

The clinic serves the approximately 6,000 members of the military on base and their dependents, as well as civilians with work-related injuries and veterans in the area. In all, Silverman said there are 45,000 people in the region eligible for services at the clinic. It employs 450 people. Taylor said the project originated with a request to replace the roof on the building. When the Air Force sent some facilities people down for an assessment, they concluded a complete renovation was in order. "I think everyone knows there is a struggle with funding, and when you get something like this, you don't say no to it," Taylor said. "We feel really lucky."

Heery International, based in Atlanta, is the designer and contractor on the project. The company has been involved with many major projects, including construction of the Georgia Aquarium.

Retrieved from The Telegraph, Macon