Dartmouth-Hitchcock presents plans for $130 million expansion

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/10/2019 9:55:31 PM

LEBANON — Planning Board members said they understand the demand for more space at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center from personal experiences during a Monday conceptual hearing of the hospital’s plans for a $130 million expansion.

The plans D-H officials presented Monday depict a new four-story, nearly 200,000-square-foot patient tower proposed to sit at the northern entrance to DHMC, within the existing Loop Road.

The project would add 64 beds to the medical center’s current 396 licensed beds and add capacity for 48 more beds in the future.

The need for the project seemed obvious to board members.

As board member Kathie Romano was waiting in DHMC’s emergency department for an “unconscionable” amount of time, she said in an audio recording of Monday’s meeting, she “watched a woman die waiting to get in to see someone.”

Long waits in the emergency department are “not uncommon,” said Tom Goins, D-H’s vice president of facilities.

DHMC cannot go on diversion like community hospitals might when their beds are full, Goins said. Instead, patients must wait in the emergency department until a bed is free. In addition to the new beds, the expansion also is slated to include a new lounge where discharged patients can wait for a ride, accelerating the turnover of beds, Goins said.

Oftentimes, Goins said, patients have to be sent out of their communities to facilities as far away as Boston because “there’s no room at the inn.”

Board member Matthew Hall said he understood the need for the expansion but wondered whether there will be sufficient parking. Hall said he had a child born at DHMC last fall, which required that he use the north entrance.

“Trying to find parking was fun,” he said.

Though the project no longer includes a 400-spot parking garage, as officials had proposed when they first announced the project last December, Goins said D-H already has gotten approval from Hanover to add nearly 300 additional spots of staff parking at “Lot 9,” near Jesse’s Steakhouse. D-H plans to have staff park at Lot 9 and take a shuttle to DHMC, leaving on-site parking for patients and “customers,” Goins said.

In addition, Goins said the hospital is making efforts to enforce current parking rules to ensure the spaces are being used properly.

D-H officials made their pitch in advance of filing a site plan for the board’s review.

The filing is expected in the coming weeks.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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