LOWVILLE — A renovation plan for the existing Copenhagen Health Center building has been moved forward by the Lewis County General Hospital Board of Managers and presented to the county Board of Legislators.

The project, estimated to cost $350,000, will update key elements to meet building codes, install a completely new HVAC system and reconfigure the use of existing spaces to make the clinic more user-friendly for both the patients and personnel, hospital Chief Executive Officer Gerald R. Cayer said in his presentations to both boards.

It will consist of the practitioner’s office, three consultation rooms, one non-gender-specific handicap-accessible bathroom, a staff break room and some cosmetic changes that aren’t included in the price because they will be done by hospital staff.

In May, after the hospital closed because its Department of Health certificate hadn’t been renewed since 2006, and the modular building at 9732 State Route 12 in the village would no longer pass muster under current codes and standards, a number of options were considered.

Tearing down the structure and building a new clinic at a cost beginning at $800,000 or gutting the existing building for a complete renovation for an estimated cost of $712,000, however, were ultimately discarded as options.

“Taj Mahals in rural America don’t work,” Mr. Cayer said to the hospital board. “They’re not affordable and they’re not sustainable.”

There was concern that there would be no way to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act without gutting or tearing the building down, but Mr. Cayer said the hallway width, at 44 inches, easily met the 42 inch ADA standard, as did all of the doorways.

“This fundamentally changed how we started thinking about Copenhagen,” he said.

Another option that was considered once the rebuild wasn’t necessary involved a “modest addition” onto the existing structure to provide an extended waiting room and two bathrooms.

While the option was presented to the board, Mr. Cayer said with a higher cost of about $460,000, it wasn’t the one they felt made the most sense and gave the most value.

Hospital board member Susan J. Ross raised a concern that despite the proposed changes to the existing building, the renovations were expensive and it is still a modular structure, described in previous discussions as flimsy. However, Mr. Cayer said the biggest concern at this point is to ensure the building will pass all of the necessary codes and reopen for patients.

Ultimately, Mr. Cayer said, reopening the health center is likely to “decompress our practices a bit here in Lowville and perhaps may bring some community members back here locally that have gone outside of our region.”

The next step will be for Mr. Cayer to present the plan to the Copenhagen board and get feedback before moving forward.

Unlike the old two-day-a-week clinic, the new health center will be staffed with a nurse practitioner four days each week.

Mr. Cayer told both boards that if all goes well, the bidding process will begin as soon as possible and the clinic can be staffed and open in the spring.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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