A beam, signed by over 830 individuals, was placed during a Topping Off Ceremony on Tuesday. The Topping Off Ceremony marks the placing of the topmost beam as the steel structure comes to fruition. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
A beam, signed by over 830 individuals, was placed during a Topping Off Ceremony on Tuesday. The Topping Off Ceremony marks the placing of the topmost beam as the steel structure comes to fruition. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – A large crowd gathered early Tuesday morning to watch the 1,800-pound beam, that over 830 people had signed, be raised to the top of Van Wert Health. The Topping Off Ceremony served as a milestone marker in the $46 million Van Wert Health expansion project.

The expansion is taking place at the site of the current hospital location and is set to be completed in the fall of 2020. The expansion was announced in August 2018 and ground was broken shortly after.

CEO Jim Pope said that the expansion is part of Van Wert Health’s mission “to be the best community hospital.”

“We know that’s a journey, we know it’s not a destination, we know that things change in health care every single day,” said Pope. “As those things change, we have to change with them and we have to get better with them. As technology gets better, we have to get better.”

The expansion includes a variety of features including a state-of-the-art surgery area which will increase Van Wert Health’s surgical capacity. The surgery area will include four large surgery suites to accommodate today’s more advanced surgical equipment, three endoscopy rooms, 16 private pre-surgical and post-operative rooms, post-anesthesia care unit, a new pre-admission testing area with convenient access to lab and x-ray services, and private post-surgery pick-up area.

Other new features include a new, more private patient registration area, all-new, private acute care patient rooms, dedicated critical care area including five intensive care unit rooms, all new labor and delivery rooms, C-section suite, and additional OB/GYN rooms, an enhanced space for IT to support new information and clinical data systems, a new café, and a new lobby and parking lot to make visiting Van Wert Health more comfortable and convenient for patients and visitors.

Tuesday’s Topping Off Ceremony is part of a construction industry tradition that celebrates the completion of a steel structure. To involve the community in the celebration, Van Wert Health held several beam signing days. Around 1,000 names are estimated to be on the beam which now sits as the topmost beam of the building.

“All of [the people] who put their name on that beam will forever be a part of our journey as we continue to move forward,” said Pope.

Placed on the beam Tuesday was an American flag and an Evergreen tree, both of which played homage to traditional Topping Off Ceremonies. The Evergreen will eventually be placed somewhere on the Van Wert Health property.

“Health care is a constantly evolving business and we have to evolve with it,” said Pope after the beam had been placed. “We knew the only way to meet the community’s needs going forward was to go ahead and building a new campus.”

Pope noted that estimates were done to see how much it would cost to retrofit the old campus. He said that it would have cost around $15 million just to modernize the utilities. Building a new campus was the most cost-effective way to bring Van Wert Health up-to-date with modern features. The expansion will also allow for room to grow when needed.

“For the Van Wert community, [this expansion] ensures that we will have a place to provide high-quality health care long after I’m gone from this earth,” said Pope.

The project is being funded through a combination of cash, financing, and bonds according to Pope.