Lewis said hospital officials hope to raise $2 million to provide specific equipment and furnishings and to help with some of the renovations. Lewis added the campaign has received contributions from large and small local business as well as individuals.
"We're doing well. We're very appreciative of the support we are receiving from the local community," he added.
The expansion project includes a new 48-bed medical-surgical wing; an expansion of the emergency room from 12 to 20 beds; a four-bed expansion in the intensive-care unit to 12 beds; a federally approved rooftop heliport with direct access to the medical-surgical unit; a new and larger entrance for both the emergency room and main lobby; a new surgical suite of five operating rooms and two specialized procedure rooms; and a new centralized registration system.
The hospital's history dates back to 1908, when a 13-bed facility was opened by doctors. The hospital eventually was sold to the county and renamed Imperial Valley Hospital. By 1949, the area's increasing population led to the need for a larger facility. The hospital's ongoing Legacy of Caring program began at the same time. The result was a new hospital built in the mid-1950s that accepted its first patients in 1957.
It is that 21,700 square-foot facility that is being upgraded and expanded upon today. An expansion in the 1960s added 20,600 square-feet and increased the hospital's capacity to 86 beds.
In 1973 the public approved a bond issue for a further expansion, including enhancements to radiology, emergency, laboratories and in-patient care areas.
In 1986 the name of the hospital, then El Centro Community Hospital, was changed to El Centro Regional Medical Center to reflect the broad area it serves. The new medical plaza adjacent to the hospital opened in 1997.
The new facility will include parking lot improvements along Pepper Drive. The parking lots will have a berm and landscaping on the south side to reduce the effect of vehicle lights on local residences. There will be street improvements at the intersection of Imperial Avenue and Ross Avenue and Imperial at Pepper.
The building will be done in November, although the total project will be completed in May 2003.
When the new building is complete the existing recovery room, emergency room and operating rooms one and two will be demolished and a new main entry and central admitting room will be built.
Pat Miller, president of the board of trustees for El Centro Regional, said, "It was fabulous. This is something we have been working since I've been on the board eight years ago."
Miller added hospital officials are in negotiations with a company that would provide a helicopter that would be stationed at the hospital for emergencies.
Added Miller of the construction project: "It's one of the most fabulous things to happen for the whole Valley that we're finally getting started."
>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez contributed to this story.
>> Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.