Eureka hospital panel considers architects’ proposals

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Eureka Springs Hospital Commission has a big decision to make.

On Monday afternoon, the commission heard presentations from two groups of architects regarding the proposed renovations to the hospital. Morrison Architecture and Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects presented their proposal first, with Laura Morrison explaining the reason behind the partnership.

“You may ask why we brought in some new fresh faces,” Morrison said. “We wanted some other points of view. We wanted to beef up our team as far as technical expertise but also just experience in current trending hospital facility design.”

Paul Gregory showed a few hospital projects both firms have worked on, including Baptist Health Medical Center in Arkadelphia and Magnolia Hospital in Magnolia. Gregory said his firm has quite a bit of experience working with rural hospitals and could translate that to the work in Eureka Springs. Magnolia Hospital, Gregory said, is the only other city hospital in the state.

“They had an older facility and they were looking, seeing it age in front of them and becoming less and less useful,” Gregory said. “They really dearly loved that facility, and I did too.”

The infrastructure hadn’t been well-maintained there, Gregory said, so his firm had to build a new facility.

“It was time to move on. The best thing for them to do was put their money in the future rather than continue on,” Gregory said. “Magnolia has a population of about 15,000. They’re a little bit bigger than Eureka Springs, but the situations are similar.”

Other projects involved combining historic structures with new medical facilities, Gregory said, which is exactly what the commission is looking to do in Eureka Springs. Gregory stressed that his team always keeps every aspect of the project in mind.

“Something you should understand for our whole team is the budget is considered very seriously,” Gregory said.

It’s also important, Gregory said, to consider keeping energy costs down.

“There’s a lot of improvements that can be made from energy savings. We’ll upgrade any and all systems in those areas, and we’re definitely going to save you on some utility costs if we can find a way to do it,” Gregory said. “Let’s do it, guys.”

Morrison said her firm is no stranger to the Eureka Springs Hospital. She’s been working with the hospital commission for nearly 15 years, Morrison said.

“It’s important to understand our depth of knowledge to your facility and how it’s changed over the years and how it’s changed based on what management was there and what staff was there,” Morrison said. “We’ve always taken that approach with what we consider to be our hospital. That’s just the way it is.”

She continued, “We’re not new. We’re not going to be starting something over. We have this knowledge. We have this experience with your facility already.”

Michael Finefield agreed, saying he has personal stake in the renovations. Eureka Springs is his home, Finefield said.

“We want ultimate patient care. We want the patient to be comfortable in a relaxing and nurturing environment,” Finefield said. “The staff comes to this place to work every day, a lot of times in high-stress situations, so it’s got to be a place they’re comfortable to work in.”

After the presentation, Mayor Butch Berry said he liked what he heard.

“They’ve done a great job, obviously,” Berry said. “My concern is being able to make sure we get a project that we can afford in the budget.”

Bates Architects and Johnson Architecture presented their proposal next, with Tom Johnson saying he worked in Eureka Springs for 25 years before moving to Fort Smith.

“We hope this is not necessarily a presentation but the start of many meetings for this project,” Johnson said.

Paul Sabal, director of healthcare for Bates Architects, described some of the hospital projects his firm has taken on over the years. These projects include Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas and Mercy Hospital Jefferson, Sabal said.

“Our office does both urban projects and rural projects. We do both large community hospitals and critical access facilities,” Sabal said. “We have a breadth of depth in healthcare experiencing. There’s a history of the team working in a rural environment understanding the needs of critical access.”

The renovations to Eureka Springs Hospital, Sabal said, pose a couple of challenges.

“We have to solve the healthcare problem, then we have to fit a modern hospital in a 19th century Victorian city,” Sabal said. “We have a true understanding of what services need to be provided here. There’s a uniqueness to the population, and there’s a uniqueness to the resources you have.”

Dennis Markey showed the commission five different options for the proposed renovations, saying the commission could work with the firm on any of these options. He spoke with hospital employees, Markey said, and learned they have to take food outside, walk around the building and up a ramp to deliver it.

“They told us all the little details like that,” Markey said. “Hopefully, we can fix all of that.”

One of the options, he said, would provide an easier way for employees to get around the hospital. Commission chairman Michael Merry said he liked that option. The most important thing, Johnson said, is for the commission to have a hospital that works for everyone.

“We think we’re the team that can help you do that,” Johnson said.

The commission was expected to choose a firm to take on the project later in the week.

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