Seven years after construction started on the new Broughton Hospital, state officials might be able to start moving patients into the facility.

But there’s still more than a month to go before the contractor could turn the hospital over to the state.

Cobey Culton, a press assistant for North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said according to Archer Western Contractors’ latest schedule, they expect to achieve final acceptance on Oct. 15.

“That’s when we would take occupancy of the building and grounds,” Culton said in an email to The News Herald. 

It will then take three to four months after final acceptance to train staff on the new building and systems, Culton said. The training of staff is required before patients are moved into the new hospital, he said.

Last year, the state projected the completion date will be sometime around March 2019.

Construction on the $130 million hospital started in January 2012. It was supposed to take around 2.5 years to build.

The completion date has since been revised six times.

The construction has had numerous problems, not least of which was with the foundation and insulation getting wet, and completion delays.

N.C. Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-86) said he recently asked the nonpartisan legislative staff about the status of Broughton Hospital and when a move-in date might happen. He was told patient move-in is expected to be completed six months after final acceptance. Patient safety modifications will need to be done after move-in, Blackwell also was told.

Something that won’t be included in the hospital is electronic medical records, according to an email from the legislative staff after Blackwell asked the question.

Blackwell said at the same time the state is requiring doctors and other practices to update for electronic medical records, there won’t be electronic medical records at what is supposed to be two state-of-the-art hospitals. He said the hospital will be using paper files.

The state fired AWC in April 2017, citing the delays and saying it had lost trust in the contractor. It cited “non-conforming work, the rework of which alone were sufficient to cause a substantial delay in the progress of the Project” when it fired the contractor.

AWC disputed the state’s claim, arguing it was the best contractor to finish the job. It also threatened a lawsuit for wrongful termination if it was fired.

Travelers Casualty & Surety Co. of America, the insurance company for the project, took over the Broughton Hospital build but hired back AWC, with the state’s approval, as the completion contractor.

Broughton is not the only state mental hospital with which the state has had problems. The $138 million Cherry Hospital opened in August 2016, three years after it was scheduled to open. Archer Western Contractors also built that hospital.

State officials thought they could save money by using the same contractor and plans for the new Broughton Hospital as it was using for the new Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro.

Blackwell said he expects that once Broughton Hospital has been accepted by the state, it is his expectation, based on the history with Cherry and what has gone on with Broughton, the contractor will sue the state for more money for the Morganton hospital.

Archer Western has filed two lawsuits, one in 2016 and one in 2017, suing the state and the architecture firm for $26 million for Cherry Hospital, Blackwell said it was reported to him. The lawsuits have been consolidated for trial and the case is in the discovery process, he said.

When the hospital was being imagined, the idea was to bring all functions under one roof. But state officials said last year it was also the intent to maintain some of the existing Broughton buildings, including the gym, Lippard Chapel and Moran Building. In addition, the need for additional office space, as well as space for record storage, means also maintaining the existing Jones Building, according to the state. DHHS officials said in 2017 that the design of the new hospital was based on the expectation that it would have an electronic health record system.

The state also will continue to use some facility engineering buildings, grounds shop and paint shop, DHHS said. All of the current Broughton Hospital buildings are anticipated to be used indefinitely, the department said last year.

Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at smcbrayer@morganton.com or at 828-432-8946.

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