WESTMINSTER, MD-The first phase of an $80-million expansion of the 172-bed Carroll County General Hospital has gotten underway with an official groundbreaking ceremony that took place yesterday. The project encompasses 138,000-sf of space and will involve the construction of a 113,000-sf four-story inpatient bed tower atop an existing wing and a 25,000-sf upgrade of the emergency department. This represents the facility’s first major upgrade since its inception 41 years ago.

While the town of Westminster itself is home to just 17,000 residents, Carroll County has about 160,000 residents, a number that has increased consistently and significantly over the last decade. Hospital officials, conscious of the rapidly growing population in the county, sought and won approval for the project from the Maryland Healthcare Commission in January. “This construction project will help ease many of the challenges associated with the hospital continually operating at capacity levels,” hospital president and CEO John Sernulka says in a statement on the project’s approval. The hospital treated some 40,000 individuals in its emergency department alone in 2000. “There was a 16% increase in the demand for emergency services compared to last year,” Sernulka continues. “The expansion will provide us with the space we need to improve patient flow and streamline the entire treatment process.”

As part of phase one, which is scheduled for completion sometime in 2003, the building’s front entrance will be updated as well. The hospital is funding the expansion through cash reserves, bond financing and its $8 million Fulfilling the Promise fund-raising campaign. The project’s second phase, which is to be completed in 2004, will involve expanding space for outpatient services such as cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy and new medical programs. Ultimately, renovation will increase the medical facility’s size by more than 40% to 378,000 sf.