Christ Medical Center set to top off new pavilion, eyes OK for more expansion
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org August 24, 2012 8:42PM
Ken Lukhard, president of Advocate Christ Medical Center, speaks to staff at the ceremony to sign the beam that will top off the new outpatient pavilion. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 27, 2012 11:11AM
During his 25 years at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, the Rev. Wendell Oman says he’s been called upon countless times to console families coping with the illness or death of a loved one.
On Friday, with dozens of hospital employees looking on, the hospital’s vice president of mission and spiritual care was called upon to say a few words of prayer over a 30-foot-long, 2,200-pound steel beam.
On Wednesday, it will be hoisted into place atop the hospital’s new Outpatient Pavilion, formally “topping out” the steel skeleton of a building scheduled to be finished by the end of next year. But before that happens, employees at Christ Medical Center and Hope Children’s Hospital will be grabbing markers and signing their names on the beam.
“I’ve prayed over a lot of different situations, but I don’t think I have ever prayed over a piece of iron,” Oman told more than 100 employees gathered for the ceremony.
Later, Oman said the beam has special significance for the hospital.
“It represents a turning point in our ability to serve the community,” the Evergreen Park resident said.
The nine-story building on the northwest corner of 95th Street and Kilbourn Avenue is the first phase of a projected $600 million expansion at the hospital, which will also include a nine-story tower along Kostner Avenue and two new parking garages.
Oak Lawn trustees are scheduled to vote Sept. 11 on plans for that second tower, and it still needs to be approved by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which could act on it at its October meeting.
Currently, outpatient services are scattered throughout the main hospital building and will be centralized in the new pavilion, freeing up space to care for more acutely ill and trauma patients. There will be 14 operating suites in the new pavilion for outpatient procedures as well as space for the hospital’s cancer, heart and vascular and neurosciences institutes. Advocate says the hospital sees about 1,000 outpatient customers each day.
The second tower will include an expanded emergency room as well as additional operating rooms. Increasing the size of the ER is expected to reduce the number of hours the hospital is forced to divert patients to other hospitals due to a lack of beds. Last year, the ER was closed for 1,100 hours because of capacity issues.
Christ Medical Center is the only Level 1 trauma center serving the Southland and Chicago’s South Side.
At one point, in a bid to relieve capacity constraints, Advocate sought state approval for a full-scale hospital in Tinley Park at the site of its outpatient center at 183rd Street and LaGrange Road. Health facilities board officials, however, rejected the proposal.
Ken Lukhard, president of Christ Medical Center and Hope Children’s Hospital, told employees Friday the beam-signing ceremony was an “amazingly exciting moment in the history of this medical campus,” and the “first big step in the journey toward our vision” of boosting the hospital’s capacity.
While more than 100 employees signed the beam Friday, it will be left out until Wednesday morning for others to sign, then hoisted to the top of the tower. At the rate the beam — painted white to accommodate signatures — was filling up, workers will have to flip it over so more employees can sign, said Patrick Lyons, director of construction for Advocate Health Care.
To clear room for the Kostner Avenue tower, Advocate will demolish an existing parking garage on the west side of the street, and that could begin in December or January, Lyons said. A new 1,000-vehicle parking garage will be built on the east side of Kostner, and Advocate is also under way on another parking garage that will be directly west of the Outpatient Pavilion.