Local pols, officials sign beam to top new tower at Christ Medical Center
By Steve Metsch firstname.lastname@example.org June 25, 2014 6:34PM
Illinois Senator Bill Cunningham signs the final beam to be placed for the new addition of the Advocate Christ Medical Center, Wednesday, June 25th, 2014, in Oak Lawn. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 27, 2014 8:30AM
Doctors, nurses, staff and officials of Christ Medical Center crowded outside the Outpatient Pavilion in Oak Lawn on Wednesday morning, eager to sign their names on a white steel beam that on Monday will top off a 288,000-square-foot tower being built on the hospital’s east side.
The East Tower, when finished, will have 72 intensive care unit beds, 48 private postpartum beds with well-baby nurseries, 15 private birthing suites, eight high-risk obstetrical beds and four C-section operating rooms with recovery suites.
Christ Medical Center president Ken Lukhard told the hundreds there that “your ability to join us to sign the beam is truly a historic moment.”
“Eight and a half years ago, we birthed a fairly wild dream here at Christ. We really did. Folks said, ‘that’s impossible.’ Yet, we’ve seen the impossible become reality here and the building behind us (the pavilion) is the first proof of that dream coming true,” Luhard said.
The new tower, at the village’s biggest employer, is expected to open in January 2016, chief operating officer Michael Wilkins said.
He and Lukhard said the biggest obstacle has been lack of space, forcing construction to go up rather than out.
The medical center now “turns away thousands of patients every year” because they can’t be easily moved from the emergency room to intensive care. Lukhard said. “So, this will solve that problem permanently.”
Construction is not done. Besides the East Tower, work is starting on a new parking garage for 780 vehicles, which will be built where the Rotunda Building now sits at the corner of 95th Street and Kostner Avenue.
Village Clerk Jane Quinlan has followed the expansions for years.
“I’ve watched every beam go up. I watched the hospital go up because I’ve lived on Kostner, two miles away, my whole life, because I’ve lived here since 1961. We’re so proud to have you here. Thank you on behalf of the village,” Quinlan said.
She recalled thinking “how in the world are they going to build on that space?”
“But what a job you’ve done, and we’re proud of everyone involved,” she said.
State Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, said that after seeing many examples of health care money misspent during his years in Springfield, “it always feels good to come here and see that money being spent well and see a dedicated staff taking care of people.”
“I’m proud to have Christ hospital in my district. I look forward to signing the beam because I have a nice long name. My signature looks like an EKG reading, so having it forever in a hospital structure is probably a good thing,” Cunningham said.
After he signed the beam, Cunningham spoke about what the medical center means for the area.
“Every time you drive by, it seems there’s a new building going up. It is the largest private employer in my district and one of the largest in the southwest suburbs. There’s all sorts of jobs, not only those working here, but those who build it. And they’re good-paying jobs,” Cunningham said.
Christ has about 6,000 employees with another 1,200 doctors affiliated with the medical center, Lukhard said.
One of those doctors, internist Bela Nand, has worked at the hospital for three years.
“This is so good for our patients and the quality of care. Access is improved having more ICU rooms and more operating tables. More patients can be seen, and they’ll get a bed much faster (moving) from the emergency room,” Nand said.
Logistics such as dealing with construction-related delays and detours have been a challenge, “but patients are still being served,” Wilkins said.
“Every time you press on one side of the campus, something pops out on the other side. It is difficult to keep everything aligned,” Wilkins said.
As the event wound down, Lukhard responded to someone named Mary B. who had printed “Go Pack Go” on the beam — a reference to the Green Bay Packers.
Feigning outrage, he said: “That just ain’t right. I’ll have to talk with HR about that. I’m going to bring Mike Singletary here to deal with that.”