MIDDLETOWN, NY-At a program held offsite, officials with Orange Regional Medical Center held a ceremonial groundbreaking for its new $317-million hospital. The event drew more than 350 well wishers from business and political circles, but also attracted a protest by several local building trades who complained that some components of the project were not being paid prevailing wage.

The new 354-room hospital is being built on 61 acres in the adjoining Town of Wallkill on East Main Street. The ceremony was held about a mile away from the construction site behind one of the hospital’s properties at 75 Crystal Run Rd.

Scott Batulis, CEO of Orange Regional Medical Center, said that “this new facility will improve healthcare, not just for Orange and Sullivan counties, but for the entire region. The new Orange Regional Medical Center will offer increased access to specialized care, accommodate new technologies, new services and attract even more excellent physicians.”

Batulis addressed the union protest by saying that seven of the 10 major construction contracts went to union contractors and that the three others–including mechanical and electrical work–did not. He says in those cases, the low bid was much lower than those submitted by union contractors.

Orange Regional currently operates two hospitals within eight miles of each other–the Arden Hill campus, a 174-bed facility in Goshen, and the 276-bed Horton campus. The hospital will eventually consolidate operations into the new facility. The Horton campus is the largest hospital in Orange County, while Arden Hill is ranked third. Construction is expected to take 34 to 36 months to complete with a grand opening scheduled in 2011.

A lion’s share of the project cost will be funded through the issuance of approximately $260 million in tax-exempt bonds issued by the New York State Dormitory Authority. Orange Regional Medical Center was awarded Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law NY grant funding through New York State totaling $24.6 million to assist with planning and construction. Other key funding sources include: approximately $18 million will come from Orange Regional Medical Center existing equity; $10 million in proceeds from the sale of the existing two campuses; $21 million from private fundraising efforts and $2.9 million from “other” sources. Last December the hospital signed a five-year sale/leaseback with non-profit the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan Counties for the Horton and Arden Hill campuses. The $10-million purchase price was supported by a $4-million gift to the Community Foundation and a $6-million mortgage from non-profit Gerry Foundation Inc. An ORMC official says that while discussions are ongoing concerning future uses of the two properties, no deals have been finalized as yet.

The hospital reports the start of the public phase of what has been a $21-million capital campaign. Cynthia Lowe, chair of the Orange Regional Medical Center Foundation, says that to date $14.5 million has been raised during the “quiet” phase of the campaign.

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