Construction workers laid down a ceremonial beam onto the steel framing of the future emergency department at Ocean Medical Center this week, marking the final phase of the steel work which supports the hospital's $82 million expansion project.
The 15 foot-long beam included the signatures hundreds of employees and community members written onto its surface.
"Ocean Medical Center is literally changing before our eyes," said Dean Q. Lin, hospital president, as employees and donors to the project viewed the beam placement from a perch on the hospital's sixth floor.
The project, which will greatly expand the hospital's emergency department, began last summer. 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 have said.
The hospital currently has about 51,000 emergency room visits per year. The current emergency department is designed for only 17,000 visits. The new facility will have the capacity for about 70,000 annual visits. It will include 49 private rooms as well as a dedicated, private pediatric section.
"Construction is going very well," said Regina Foley, Vice President of Operations. "We broke ground in June, and we're looking to complete it as planned in March 2014."
Foley said construction was briefly interrupted by Superstorm Sandy, though it is not expected that the storm will delay the opening of the new department.
"Right now, we're on target and we're good to go," said Foley. "We want to occupy it as soon as it is ready to go."
Foley said about a third of the hospital's emergency patients are currently treated in hallways, and once the new department is completed, it will be opened as soon as it receives regulatory approval.
The project benefited from a $5 million matching donation made by the Hovnanian family foundation. The department will be named after Hirair and Anna Hovnanian, who started their family's real estate development business in Brick before moving to Monmouth County.