New hospital starts to rise in Muskogee, Okla.

May 5--A spokesman for a new hospital under construction said it will succeed despite political roadblocks.

Mark Roberts, president of Muskogee Community Hospital, said city leaders have continued creating new rules and refusing to approve plans.

"A certificate of need was put in place to stop us," he said. "We're not trying to make waves, just better health care."

Roberts said the location was moved twice as a result of complications dealing with the city. The final location is just outside city limits at North Main Street and Harris Road, the site of the former Bacone College rodeo grounds.

Mayor Wren Stratton said the city wanted MCH backers to do a study establishing the need for a second hospital and its long-term impact.

"It doesn't matter my opinion, nor does it matter Mark Roberts' opinion; what matters are the facts," she said. "Unfortunately, they circumvented needing to provide those (when they moved outside city limits). A facility with that many inpatient beds needs to be able to justify that this community can support them."

Betty Pace, in her 70s, said she believes there may be a need for another hospital.

"If Muskogee could hire more doctors, we would be much better off," she said. "I hear it from people that we need more services."

Pace said neither she nor her husband Harold have had any problems with Muskogee Regional Medical Center, the city's existing hospital.

Not everyone thinks the area needs a second hospital. Steve Mahan, chief executive officer at Muskogee Regional Medical Center, said he believes MCH will place an additional burden on the market's scarcity of physicians and nurses.

Stratton agreed with Mahan's statement about the problem of physicians and nurses.

"I can document that we don't have enough health care workers," she said.

"The long-term impact is negative; they simply increase the shortage for our community."

Roberts said he believes there are enough local patients to keep both hospitals busy.

"Two-thirds of people on Medicare choose to get their treatment at places that are not here," he said. "Between Capella (MRMC), the Cherokees (Three Rivers Health Center) and us, if we all do a good job, we've got a chance to keep those patients here."

The new facility initially will have 45 private rooms and four operating rooms. Expected to open in the first quarter of 2009, the hospital is on land not previously set up for commercial real estate. Roberts said the group backing the project is willing to pay extra to make it work.

"People will be able to enter on both roads," he said. "We're taking care of everything. We will pay for our own road improvements, and we're already plugged into a 6-inch water line (in Rural Water District No. 9). We also have our own sewer system."

Roberts said backers are proud that the $52 million project may be the first "green" hospital in the nation. It has been certified under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, a national third-party program.

As for their reasons for going to the extra time and expense, Roberts said there's no reason to "justify doing the right thing."

General contractor for the project is Aardex Corp., of Denver, Colo. Aardex has been given a directive to use area sub-contractors, Roberts said.

"We are using recycled products and not being wasteful," he said. "We recycle more than 50 percent; we're even careful where we buy our steel. We could have built this hospital for seven figures less."

Roberts said the hospital will use geothermal heating and cooling via 280 wells dug 300 feet deep.

"We estimate it will save us 90 to 95 percent on heating, and air conditioning will be 45 to 50 percent of what it would otherwise cost," he said.

A $5 million annual payroll and $500,000-plus in ad valorem taxes will be part of the economic fallout. It will initially employ more than 100 people, Roberts said.

They also plan a medical office building to include a training center used by both the hospital and area education programs.