A $74 million project to expand Ocean Medical Center's emergency department and add hospital space has grown to an $82 million project that will include an additional floor beyond the two already proposed.
Local officials and officials with Meridian Health System were on hand Thursday evening for a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony at the Jack Martin Boulevard hospital, which opened in the summer of 1984.
Hospital officials also announced a $5 million donation toward the project from Edele Hovnanian in honor of her parents, Hirair and Anna Hovnanian, for whom the hospital's new emergency department will be named.
The gift from the Hovnanian family – known for their real estate development business – is thought to be the largest ever in Ocean County history, hospital officials said.
In announcing the donation and opening the groundbreaking ceremony, Meridian Health System President John K. Lloyd said he's been affiliated with since it opened in 1984 as Brick Hospital.
"This was one of the first hospitals built in New Jersey in a long, long time," when it first opened, Lloyd said. "So for me to stand here now and think back that many years ago, on this very site, we dedicated Brick Hospital, it's very inspiring."
The plan to expand the hospital's emergency department was approved by the township planning board in January.
The department will grow from an 8,000 square foot facility to a 46,000 square foot facility to accommodate the growth of northern Ocean County, hospital officials said.
The expansion plan calls for the emergency department to double its capacity from 24 beds to 49 beds, and increase the department's physical size by more than five times.
The hospital currently has about 51,000 emergency room visits per year. The current emergency department is designed for 17,000 visits.
The expansion "will enable us to care for our patients in more comfortable surroundings, and with increased privacy," said Dr. Bradley Pulver, chair of the hospital's emergency department.
The new emergency department will include 49 private rooms for patients, including an eight bed private pediatric section and a secured behavioral health section, Pulver said. Services such as X-Rays and CT scans will be able to be performed in the department itself.
"It's no secret that our team currently works in a much-too-small emergency department," Pulver said, adding that "everybody who works there has a great attitude and does a phenomenal job taking care of our patients."
Construction is slated to start by mid-May and will take 20 months to complete.
Tweaks to the plan from when it was originally proposed include an additional floor – for a total of two – above the ground-floor emergency department. The third floor will be used as shell space that will eventually contain expanded diagnostic and treatment services, as well as private patient care units, said Donna Sellmann, hospital spokesperson.
During the construction project, which is scheduled to be completed in February 2014, the current emergency department will continue to operate as usual, hospital officials said. Additionally, patients can go to Ocean Care Center, the hospital's satellite emergency department in Point Pleasant Boro.