By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Kenmore Mercy Hospital now has another multimillion dollar addition in the works as construction continues on the emergency department project continues. This time, the new facility will house an orthopedics unit.
“It will be $5.8 million for a second floor 15,000-square-foot facility right above the emergency department,” KMH President and CEO James M. Millard said.
Hospital officials have sent a certificate of need to New York Department of Health to obtain their approval of the project. Millard said he is hoping to get final approval from the state by the end of the year at the latest.
“We want to be able to build the emergency department and this at the same time,” Millard said.
The decision to expand the orthopedic unit came as a result of high demand in the area. Millard said Kenmore Mercy has 2,000 orthopedic cases a year and over half of those are inpatient, overnight procedures — many of which are total hip and knee replacements.
“The most we do is orthopedics,” Millard said.
The unit will include 24 spacious private rooms and a gym for rehabilitative services, as well as a staff lounge, two nurse stations and other offices.
The emergency department addition is direly needed as well, with the hospital expecting 30,000 patient visits this year.
“Part of the reasoning is just the demand,” Millard said. “The other part is to modernize the facility and provide more private rooms and built in emergency preparedness if we ever needed to respond to any kind of disaster.”
The emergency department was built back in the 1960s and has gone through some renovations in the 1990s. But the new one will provide about 25 private rooms, compared to 18 in the old facility, and is designed to handle 40,000 visits a year. It will be equipped with a centralized nursing station, a drive-up ambulance bay, two resuscitation rooms and digital radiology equipment.
Construction on the facility began in the spring, with a groundbreaking ceremony taking place in March. The shell for the department is now complete and work on the interior is beginning.
Ideally, both the emergency department and the orthopedics unit will be finished next summer.
“We did accommodate for some added growth,” Millard said. “We are planning for the future. We are excited.”
The project isn’t entirely without controversy, though. Catholic Health, the umbrella group operating all Buffalo Catholic hospitals, is catching flack from the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters for employing non-union carpenters.
The union has undertaken a campaign to force large employers to use union work and pay greater wages, and according to Daryl Bodewes, council representative, they are targeting certain non-union contractors.
Bodewes said Catholic Health employs contractors that fall into that category. The carpenters union is taking issue with Mandon Building Systems currently doing work at Kenmore Mercy.
“We told Catholic Health that when the job started, we possibly would be doing picketing there, too,” Bodewes said. “We didn’t hear from them. They are utilizing contractors that don’t pay area (wages) and benefits.”
Despite some back and forth discussion with Catholic Health since then, no concrete progress has been made, according to Bodewes.
The council continues to picket at Kenmore Mercy, Sisters of Charity Hospital St. Joseph campus, and at the Catholic Diocese every week.
“It’s just generally what union wages are — good retirement, health care benefits,” Bodewes said.
A statement from Catholic Health asserts that they do not have any dispute with the carpenters union.
“We recognize the importance of offering skilled workers competitive wages and benefits, and expect that of our contractors,” it states. “In the past, projects have been awarded to union and non-union contractors alike.”Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.