PRIME progressing at Evangelical

Robert Inglis/The Daily Item The main lobby of Evangelical Community Hospital's prime project will feature a glass wall from floor to ceiling in this image taken in January

Interior construction on Evangelical Community Hospital's $72 million expansion has been temporarily halted after three workers on the hospital's PRIME (Patient Room Improvement, Modernization, and Enhancement) project tested positive for COVID-19.

“Along with our partner Quandel, the safety of the men and women who are working on the construction site has been and always will be our primary focus,” said William Anderson, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Evangelical. “Together, we are using the long weekend to continue to execute our plan to safely return to work on the inside of the building. The goal is to have interior work resume by Monday, June 1.”

Some exterior work, including the curbing and paving in the parking lots, will continue as scheduled.

Hospital officials said the site will completely be disinfected from top to bottom and air-handling units will be brought on-line to aid in improved air circulation throughout the building.

Potentially exposed workers have been instructed to self-monitor for symptoms. The hospital has also made accommodations to screen workers. Those meeting Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines will be tested.

On Monday, Evangelical President and CEO Kendra Aucker said the project has been delayed by 4 to 6 weeks and should now be done by late September or early October. Hospital construction and renovation remain among the essential business exemptions permitted within Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide stay-at-home order issued Wednesday. Work on the $72 million PRIME project halted March 19 under Gov. Tom Wolf’s initial work-stoppage order. Construction resumed on March 30.

When the projected resumed following the delay, Aucker said only 40 to 45 contractors were working each shift to limit personal contact instead of the expected 130 workers on each shift.

"COVID has had an impact on PRIME," she said. "We have safety measures in place. The site is cleaned by an independent contractor daily."

PRIME is a 4-story addition to the hospital plus interior renovations to the existing structure. It’s designed to create or convert all 132 patient beds into single-occupancy rooms including 88 brand new rooms.

“It’s important to understand that the number of positive cases we’ve seen at the PRIME worksite is less than the percentage of positive results we’ve seen in the general public,” said Anderson. “Over the course of a normal workday, we might have around 150 workers from various subcontractors on the site over staggered shifts. With three positive cases, that’s about 2 percent of the PRIME workforce. Around 10% of the community members, we test come back positive.”

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