April 02, 2020

$12 million renovation proposed at Waldo County General Hospital

BELFAST — Officials at the Waldo County General Hospital this week announced plans for a $12 million renovation and addition to the facility. The plan represents the first major addition to the hospital since 1982.

According to Mark Biscone, the hospital’s executive director, about 66,000 square feet of space will be added to the hospital, while 30,000 square feet will undergo remodeling.

The nonprofit hospital has had steady, strong growth since 1995, a trend that’s expected to continue, Biscone said. During its fiscal year of July 1996 to June 1997, the hospital had a 14 percent increase in the number of outpatients treated over the previous year. Inpatient numbers increased by 4 percent over the previous year.

“We’re experiencing that growth again this year,” Biscone said. The first five months of this fiscal year indicate an increase of about 8 percent over the 1996-97 fiscal year.

“Waldo County has been growing,” he said. “You’ve certainly gotten a larger employee base here in the past few years.” Since first opening its offices here in 1995, MBNA has added hundreds of jobs at its credit card servicing facility. A three-building complex nearing completion on Route 3 is expected to house about 2,000 employees in two years. While many of those employees will likely commute from surrounding areas, hospital officials expect that many of Belfast’s new workers will use the Waldo County hospital’s services and doctors because of proximity.

The number of licensed patient beds at the hospital will remain at 45, Biscone said, largely because the trend toward shorter hospital stays has forestalled any shortage. However, more of those beds will be put in private rooms because the demand for such rooms has increased.

Almost every department in the hospital will increase its size, from radiology, laboratory services and chemotherapy to the emergency room, cardiology and obstetrics. There will also be a new, larger hospice area.

The hospital is hiring eight more doctors, which will increase its number of full-time doctors to 39. Among the additions are two family practitioners, a pediatrician, a urologist, a cardiologist and a neurologist. A two-floor, 30,000-square-foot medical offices building will be constructed to the east of the hospital to accommodate the growing medical staff.

Hospital officials this week asked the Belfast City Council to schedule a public hearing to consider the creation of a new zoning district called a health care zone. The hospital and several of its affiliates — Coastal Medical Care and Waldo County Home Healthcare & Hospice Services — are located on about 30 acres of property on Northport Avenue south of downtown. The hospital would like this property to be designated a health care zone.

“As time goes on, we’ll need to use more and more of this property,” Biscone said. “We need more flexibility for building heights and setbacks.”

A public hearing is tentatively set for Feb. 17.

Most of the hospital construction will be financed by bonds through the Maine Health and Higher Education Facilities Authority. Actual construction will take about two years and at the earliest might start in October, Biscone said.

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