Construction will shut down parts of Johnson Memorial Hospital for the next year, but the hospital is working to make sure people can still quickly get to the emergency room, sterile equipment isn’t tainted and patients aren’t affected.

Large outdoor banners will direct people to temporary entrances for the emergency department and the rest of the hospital as construction gets underway next week. Crews will shut down the main drive off Jefferson Street and close the hospital’s main entrance for the project.

During the yearlong construction, workers will be changing the hospital’s parking, creating a new main entrance separate from the emergency department, building a larger and updated kitchen and cafeteria, and demolishing an old office building to create an outdoor pond and walking track. The project is expected to be complete by November.

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The hospital is trying to condense the campus, which has had multiple additions during the past 70 years, hospital chief executive officer Larry Heydon said. The $8.3 million in improvements won’t create new spaces for doctors, procedures or high-tech equipment, but the renovations will help improve the look of the hospital. The projects will also improve the non-medical experience by making it easier to park nearby, find your way around and enjoy a good meal when visiting, he said.

“It gives us a better image for the public to see JMH and better facilities to receive care. There is much more competition in Johnson County; and even though our quality is top notch, people do make decisions based on their impressions,” Heydon said.

Visitors and patients to the hospital will need to look out for signs pointing them to temporary entrances, since the main entrance and parking area will be closed next week. Crews have already been putting in new sidewalks but will also reconfigure some of the parking in front of the hospital.

Once inside, you’ll likely see temporary plastic walls put up in construction areas, which will help keep patients away from construction work and materials, such as dust or paint, that could inflame certain conditions, Heydon said.

“Any time we do a construction project, we have to have full involvement with infection control. We discuss both physical safety issues as well as other clinical issues around the construction. We want to compact any type of dust or material in a confined area. There will be some physical signs of construction being done, but it’s not going to leak out into the general area,” Heydon said.

Workers will construct a new main entrance for the building first, which will also help eliminate flooding issues the hospital has had in the past, Heydon said.

Right now the main entrance and emergency entrance are located in the same area. The emergency room doors will remain there, but other visitors will come in at a new main entrance in the office building. That entrance is directly in front of the main driveway, and people often mistake it for the main entrance anyway, Heydon said.

Workers will also remove a downward slope toward the emergency room entrance, because water runs down the 3-foot slope, which has led to flooding in some parts of the hospital in the past. About 6 inches of water filled the hospital’s emergency room and other departments during the flood in 2008, forcing the hospital to shut down some services during cleanup. Workers will elevate the land, which should eliminate any flooding in the future.

Part of the project will also give people a shorter walk to the main entrance of the hospital, he said. The existing helipad will be removed and replaced with more parking, and a new helipad will be put in on the west side of the campus.

“The overall customer experience should be enhanced with closer proximity to parking spots and a more defined entrance,” Heydon said. “We wanted to segregate the ER population to allow quick access and quick drop-off. This will allow us to segregate ER from other patients and improve care.”

About 80 percent of people using the hospital are outpatients, so the work is aimed at catering to people who will come in for a few hours and then leave. The kitchen and walking path projects will also allow the hospital to be useful to people who aren’t in need of medical care.

A new kitchen and cafeteria will be built to upgrade the original kitchen that’s been in use since 1947, Heydon said. The new wing will be built in an undeveloped area southwest of the emergency room entrance. The new space will be in a more centralized location for the hospital and closer to the main entrance for people who want to come in to dine.

The new cafeteria will have an expanded salad and fresh food bar and grill station as well as grab-and-go items, while the kitchen will also prepare meals for inpatients, dietary services manager Carol Peak said.

“As health care delivery changes to more outpatient services, retail food service is challenged to be seen less as a cafeteria for employees and visitors to a restaurant that just happens to be in a hospital. We hope to increase the number of total customers, including staff members and community members, who choose our retail food services even if they are not having medical services,” Peak said.

The new kitchen and cafeteria will be an addition to the building, but the hospital is also removing old space that’s no longer needed.

The old 1101 Professional Office Building, which was built in 1979 and previously housed hospital business offices and a few physician offices, will be torn down. All of those offices have moved into other locations around the hospital campus and tearing down the aging building will help save the hospital in utility and maintenance costs in the future, Heydon said. The newest addition to that building on the far east end of the campus will remain and become a standalone office.

In place of the demolished building, the hospital will build a new pond and walking path. The walking path can be used by employees, visitors or residents who want to get a little exercise, while the pond will also help hold stormwater and further reduce any flooding issues on the campus, Heydon said.

Construction ahead

Johnson Memorial Hospital is starting a construction project next week that will last for about one year. Driveways will be closed and temporary entrances set up, so here’s how you’ll need to get around the campus:

Main drive closed – The main driveway and parking lot off Jefferson Street will be closed. Drivers can come in an alternate driveway further west and park in front of the 1159 Professional Building.

Emergency entrance – A temporary emergency department entrance will be open east of the current door, which will be blocked by construction. Large banners will be put up to help patients find the entrance.

Main entrance – While building a new main entrance, visitors or people coming for outpatient treatment will need to use the temporary entrance in the 1159 Professional Building on the west side of the campus. A large banner will be put up near the entrance. Those doors will only be open between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.