By Loren Barnes, Naval Hospital Jacksonville Public Affairs
NAVAL HOSPITAL JACKSONVILLE, FLA (NNS) -- The smell of new paint filled the air and new equipment gleamed as Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla. (NH Jax), as staff, beneficiaries and dignitaries gathered in the hospital's lobby to officially cut a ribbon opening a new three-story, 62,000 square-feet, addition July 15.
Ground was broken for this $35.8 million project on June 9, 2008 and the opening brings to fruition more than a decade of planning, contract bids and hard work.
NH Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Bruce Gillingham said, "This military construction (MILCON) project will help us deliver world-class medical treatment using the most innovative technology. Expansion and renovation of Naval Hospital Jacksonville underscores our commitment to excellence and to providing the highest quality healthcare to meet the needs of each and every one of our patients."
Featured speakers at the ribbon cutting ceremony were Commander, Navy Medicine East (NME) and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va., Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks as well as Jacqueline Smith, District Director for Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fl).
"This new addition reflects our commitment to the health care of our patients and to providing great equipment for staff," Stocks said. "The six new operating rooms, with 28,000 square feet as well as state-of-the-art, integrated systems, will be the envy of operating room surgical staff around the nation.
"Another important aspect is you are opening new Physical Therapy/Occupation Therapy (PT/OT) spaces that will offer state-of-the-art equipment including an aquatic treadmill pool. This will offer a great service not only to local patients but for our wounded warriors as well," Stocks said.
He also noted that this project will be followed by a second MILCON project to include pharmacy improvements and other key patient service areas. It will include additional restoration and modernization of areas such as nuclear medicine, the intensive care unit and moving a new MRI into the main building.
Stocks also recognized the presence of Capt. Lynn Welling, NH Jax's incoming commanding officer; Capt. Doug Morton, Commander, Naval Facilities Command SE; Capt. Timothy Barnes, NME Senior Health Facilities Planning & Project Officer and other local and regional military officials.
Smith read a message from Congressman Crenshaw. "As a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, it is my honor and my duty to be sure that our military infrastructure is modernized to meet the needs of those who serve.
"With this addition, your Navy Hospital offers a first–class surgical area and physical and occupational areas to its patients."
Crenshaw also expressed his appreciation of those who worked on the design and build of the facility, but mostly those who work at NH Jax and provide first-class care to our military and their families. "You are the living heart that makes this building come alive," he said.
Following the ceremony, tours were conducted of the facilities for more than 120 guests and staff.
Director, Clinical Support Services and PT/OT Department Head Cmdr. Frank Pearson showed the guests the new PT/OT spaces. As guests peered into what appeared to be a huge Jacuzzi, he explained this unique piece of equipment is an aquatic treadmill. "Here patients can build strength on a treadmill with minimal impact on their injuries," he said.
Pearson also showed them an OT area outfitted for recuperating patients to practice life skills in a fully-equipped kitchen and bedroom facilities such as they'd find in their homes. He noted that higher level Navy medical facilities see wounded warriors with serious injuries returning directly from the war theatre but as they recover sufficiently they want to get back to areas near their homes, families and command and NH Jax will be here with top-flight care for them.
Finally, the guests visited the surgical floor. According to Director of Surgical Services Cmdr. Mark Gould, it integrates systems that link all the varied life-saving equipment together enhancing communications and decreasing down time in the OR. Even the lighting in the rooms is the latest technology designed to produce heat-free and shadow-free light on the patient.