“Hopes and dreams do come true,” said Lawrence Fields, chairman of the St. Clair County Healthcare Authority. “This hospital is definitely a dream come true.”
The initiative to build a new hospital in St. Clair County started more than a decade ago, but the day finally arrived for many who have stayed the course.
“If you never quit, you never get defeated,” said Mayor Bill Hereford, who also serves on the St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital Board. “It all started with the staff of this hospital. Ya’ll are unbelievable. … On behalf of the city of Pell City, we welcome the new hospital.”
Officials planned for about 300 people for Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony, but more than 400 people crowded under the huge tent for what officials called an historic event for Ascension Health, St. Vincent’s Health System, Pell City and St. Clair County.
“Today we’ve come together to build a hospital,” said John O’Neal, president and CEO for St. Vincent’s Health System.
He said it’s apparent the community wants a new hospital with more than 400 people attending an event that would normally bring 40 people.
“This is not about bricks and mortar,” O’Neal said.
He said the new hospital is about expanding the health ministry that helps and serves the needy.
The new St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital will sit on a 16-acre site, located just west of Jefferson State Community College in Pell City. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on the Jefferson State campus.
Officials say the two-story hospital will serve patients in St. Clair County and surrounding areas with state-of-the-art diagnostics, including CAT scan (CT), MRI and Nuclear Medicine.
Don Smith, executive director of the St. Clair County Economic Development Council, said when he arrived at the EDC he was told to be more patient because the best projects take time. Judging from that, “this is going to be a great project,” he said.
Smith said the St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital joins two other quality projects on the 165-acres purchased by the EDC, Jefferson State Community College and the Veterans Administration nursing home.
Veterans Administration and college officials attended the groundbreaking.
“We’re proud to be your neighbor here on this 165-acre site,” said Terrell Vick, president and COO of St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital. “I know you can’t tell — I’m fired up today. I just want to say, ‘Wow.’”
Dirt from the actual hospital site was brought to the college campus for the official groundbreaking ceremony.
“When I smell dirt, I smell hope, dreams and opportunity,” Smith told to the crowd at the ceremony.
The total cost of the hospital project is $31.4 million.
St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon had Tommy Bowers, chairman of the EDC, to come forward and hold up an old sign found on the new hospital property for the crowd to see.
Batemon said the sign was found in an old outbuilding on the new hospital property.
The sign read, “Hospital Zone.”
He said the sign was used in front of the old hospital, the one built before the existing hospital on Dr. John Haynes Drive, and was put away and forgotten.
“That sign has been waiting for a long time for a hospital,” Batemon said.
The new hospital will have an emergency department, laboratory, dietary department (or cafeteria), chapel, administration, lobby and other departments on the ground floor.
Surgery, same day surgery preparations and recovery/observation, waiting, critical care unit, inpatient rooms and the pharmacy will be on the top floor of the hospital.
Architects Birchfield Penuel and Associates designed the facility, while Hoar Construction LLC and Goodgame Company Inc. will build it.