AUGUSTA — Stretchers, chairs, lights, sinks, paper towel dispensers, directional signs and room numbers have sprouted at MaineGeneral Medical Center’s new hospital in northwest Augusta.

Outside, sprinklers cool a newly poured concrete terrace just off the main cafeteria. Landscape workers tap bricks into place under a wooden pergola. Trees pepper the visitors’ parking lot, where bright white stripes delineate individual parking slots.

Inside, boxed computers await installation as construction workers carry paint buckets and ladders. Medical equipment, including a magnetic resonance imaging machine, operating room monitors and sterile room shelves are in place. A living wall awaits plants in the main cafeteria, where stainless equipment gleams in the serving area and the kitchen.

Construction is winding down on the $312 million regional hospital, and the training phase for employees is about to begin.

“Substantial completion was Aug. 6,” said John Scott, construction project manager. “It was originally June of 2014, and went from a field to a certificate of occupancy in two years, which is just remarkable.”

During a midweek walk through the building, small groups of doctors, laboratory personnel and nurses gathered in what will be their new workplaces, eager to see the building and where they fit in.

“We love it,” said Lauren Long, clinical laboratory manager, who has worked for MaineGeneral for 40 years. “We just can’t wait to just move in and vacate our overcrowded, ancient facility in Augusta.”

He looked around at the light, bright rooms and tables that will be staffed round-the-clock. “How often do you get to move into a brand-new facility that we helped design?”

In just under 12 weeks, on Nov. 9, the new regional hospital building known as the Alfond Center for Health will open its doors, bringing together the inpatients from MaineGeneral’s Thayer campus in Waterville and the East Chestnut Street hospital in Augusta.

The new hospital will have 192 inpatient beds — two-thirds of what is available at MaineGeneral’s two existing hospitals. The East Chestnut Street hospital has 141 beds, and the Thayer unit has 146.

The public is invited to get a peek at the new hospital from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 29. Other previews are set for that same weekend for donors, those who helped build it and others.

City code enforcement officer Gary Fuller issued a building occupancy to MaineGeneral after a walk-through July 31.

“If you take the blueprints, they built what they said they were going to build,” he said. Fuller expects to sign off on the site itself once landscaping is completed.

Fuller said he had been on the site once or twice each week over the past couple of years, inspecting the site and the eventual 640,000-square-foot, four-story building. He checked plumbing and other work. Specialty inspections were performed by others as well, including the state electrical inspector, and an inspector from the State Fire Marshal’s Office. The state Department of Health & Human Services still has to inspect and approve the building before any clinical work can be performed there.

Phyllis Powell, assistant director of the department’s Division of Licensing & Regulatory Services, said a final walk-through by department personnel is scheduled for October. They will check to be sure the facility meets state licensure guidelines, architectural guidelines, Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act guidelines — particularly with patient flow and privacy — and infection control guidelines.

She said they look essentially for the same things the city inspector does: “Have they indeed built the structure they said they were going to build?”

She said MaineGeneral already has clinical licensure.

“The hospital is the biggest building I’ve inspected,” said Fuller, who has been a city code enforcement officer for 27 years. By comparison, the one-story Central Maine Commerce Center building is 302,000 square feet, less than half the size of the new hospital.

Fuller said the standards for hospital construction, which include spraying fire retardant, mean it is “basically a non-combustible building.”

A spacious stairwell in the building’s glass-enclosed entrance has vertical and horizontal fire shutters that deploy in the event of smoke or fire. They are designed to prevent the spread of smoke or fire to any other floor.

“It’s one of the many life-safety things we have in our facility,” Scott said.

Attention to aesthetics appears in a number of places, including the etched glass dividers in the cafeteria and the etched glass walls of the spiritual center.

The hospital also has adapted to a changing population as well. The doorways are wider and the imaging machine larger, Scott said, both to accommodate people who feel claustrophobic and those who are obese.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control shows more than half of those living in Maine are overweight. Of the estimated 1.3 million population in 2010, almost 63 percent of adults were overweight and more than half of those were classified as obese, according to a “State Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Profile.”

Even as the new hospital receives its finishing touches, the area abounds with orange barrels marking construction underway at nearby exit 113 on Interstate 95.

The exit work, which includes two roundabouts and carries Route 3 in front of the hospital and the adjacent Alfond Center for Cancer Care, is expected to be completed by Nov. 8.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com