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House bill contains $500,000 for ECRMC

June 22, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

El Centro Regional Medical Center will receive almost $500,000 if a federal supplemental appropriations bill passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday gets Senate and presidential approval.

The money comes from $1 million appropriated for seismic retrofitting at the now defunct Scripps Memorial East Hospital in El Cajon. The money remained unused and was diverted by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, to two other hospitals as part of the appropriations bill.

"With the closing of Scripps Memorial in El Cajon last year, health-care facilities in our area have been forced to absorb additional patients with limited resources," Hunter said in a prepared statement. "These federal funds will be allocated for retrofitting requirements, providing these hospitals with the flexibility to use their remaining budget in a manner that will best provide emergency care to those in our community."

The other hospital is Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa.

Bill Lewis, El Centro Regional director of development, said the money will go toward building the hospital's heliport. He credited county Supervisor Hank Kuiper, a former ECRMC board member, with the idea of going after the unused funds.

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"Hank, as a board member, knew very much what our needs were," Lewis said.

Kuiper could not be reached for comment.

The hospital's $39.3 million renovation and expansion project, being financed through the sale of revenue bonds, includes the construction and equipping of a new hospital building adjacent to the existing facility. The new building will be two stories and about 68,000 square feet. It will house a 20-bed emergency room, a 12-bed intensive care unit, a 48-bed medical/surgical unit, five surgery suites, two procedure rooms for in-patients and out-patients and an ambulatory surgery center.

Bond funds also will be used to construct a new central plant to service the new building and to renovate the obstetrical wing of the existing hospital facility.

Renovation of the existing facility will include the lobby and other common waiting room areas, an isolation room, two labor/delivery/recovery rooms and other delivery room areas.

These projects will cost about $34.1 million.

Of the remaining bond money, about $5 million will go toward the replacement of the current facility's roof and to install seismic bracing.

To meet the state Seismic Compliance Act, SB 1953, the seismic improvements must be in place by 2008.

Lewis said construction began May 7.

The federal legislation, which totals $6.5 billion, addresses shortfalls in the Department of Defense, provides emergency assistance to communities impacted by natural disasters and provides relief to consumers affected by high energy costs.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill immediately.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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