THOMASVILLE -- Steel beams and concrete are in place and construction of the new wing at Archbold Memorial Hospital is progress nicely, according to officials.

Ground was broken in August for the East Tower project, which will cost about $14.3 million. It provide more than 90,000 additional square feet, including the R. Charles Loudermilk Sr. Heart and Vascular Center named after the Coolidge plantation owner who contributed some $3 million to the project.

Sally Bain, director of Archbold's cardiovascular center, said the building will serve many functions.

"In the basement level, we will have education facilities as well as cardiopulmonary rehab," Bain said. "First floor will be all diagnostics, both invasive and non-invasive. Right now we have some really good services, but they are not really accessible."

Bain said that currently, invasive and non-invasive procedures are done at opposite ends of the hospital. The new addition will put everything in one place.

"We're trying to make this more user friendly and combine everything for the patients' ease of use to make them more comfortable." Bain said. "There was a lot of thought put in early on about some nice features for the visitors and the patients' families."

Once completed, the new building will house a new cardiac and vascular center, expanded cardiac rehabilitation center, coronary critical care unit, inpatient dialysis unit and inpatient telemetry rooms.

Although details are still being finalized, the East Tower will also house a top-of-the-line education and medical conference center, thanks to a monetary pledge by a local family foundation.

Coby Bentley, coordinator for Archbold's cardiovascular department, said construction is coming along according to schedule, with the ground floor foundation completed and plans for the first floor to commence in the coming weeks.

Construction crews are also preparing to install electrical, piping and other systems for the new wing, which should be completed by fall of 2005, Bentley said.

To contact reporter Brewer Turley, call (229) 226-2400, ext. 226.

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