Schneck Medical Center plans to spend $44 million in the next couple of years to provide better access to health care.

The need for improving that access by adding 30 doctors and a five-story building to house them was determined through a process that began with a community needs health assessment in 2015, said Debbie Mann, Schneck’s vice president of finance and chief financial officer.

The project to be built on the northwest side of the campus along Tipton Street in Seymour also will include a parking garage that will hold nearly 400 vehicles.

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Mann said the assessment indicated access to health care is a barrier throughout the region with almost 40 percent of those living in service area experiencing difficulties or delays in receiving needed health care.

After the assessment, Schneck brought in a physician needs consultant who looked at the size of the community and its health care needs.

“We are short from the whole community perspective by almost 30 physicians,” Mann said. “We’re showing a pretty large shortage in primary care physicians. That would be one of our recruiting initiatives as well as specialists.

“Once we begin recruiting these physicians, we don’t really have a good place to put them relative to the hospital.”

Mann said with the multi-year, multi-phase project, Schneck is looking at a five-year recruiting plan.

Warren Forgey, Schneck’s president and CEO, said as the community has grown, Schneck has added services and specialties to meet the medical needs of the area.

“Our steadfast commitment to providing the highest health care makes Schneck better able to expand the services offered in the communities we serve,” Forgey said.

He said he is proud of the commitment and dedication Schneck’s physicians and staff show each day within the community.

“Because of their patient-first commitment, we are able to recruit and retain physicians who provide the community with excellent medical care,” Forgey said.

Some site work will begin this fall on the project, which will sit atop what is now existing parking spaces in what was once the main entrance to the hospital, Mann said.

“We’re working with the construction company and architects to phase this (in) to leave as much of the current parking open as long as possible,” she said. “Parking is going to be an issue during construction.”

To help ease that issue, the hospital plans to convert an area behind the Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center into staff parking for some of the people working in the Jackson Medical Building.

That will require demolishing an existing building that once housed a car dealership, Mann said.

Actual construction will begin in late February or early March, she added.

The first two floors of the building for doctors would be finished out because there is an immediate need for that to happen, Mann said.

The 80,000-square-foot building could hold 45 to 50 physicians, nurse practitioners and advanced service providers and would have 20 to 25 exam rooms per floor, Mann said.

Part of Pine Street south of the present Medical Office Building to Brown Street would be closed for additional parking. Motorists traveling south on Pine Street will still be able to reach the hospital’s main entrance off of West Brown Street, Mann said.

The project, which has been in the planning stages for since the fall of 2016, will take about a year and a half to complete and be finished in 2019, Mann said.

The garage will allow people using the hospital to park closer to it because as the hospital has expanded over the years, parking areas have been pushed further and further from the hospital, Mann said.

A shuttle was added in 2016 to help address that issue, said Stephanie Furlow, director of marketing and public relations.

Additional surgical areas will be developed within the main part of the hospital to serve patients after the main construction work is complete, she said.

The last major expansions that occurred at the hospital at 411 W. Tipton St. involved the construction of the $9.2 million Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center, completed in 2006, and a $60 million expansion that added 82,000 square feet to allow for a larger emergency area and an expanded outpatient center, imaging department, laboratory and parking.

A lot of the brick and limestone from the new building will match that on the 2007 building, Mann said.

“We wanted it to look cohesive,” she said.

Other building projects were completed in 1956, 1971 and 1993.

The architect is arcDESIGN, and Pepper Construction is the contractor.

Schneck presently has 93 beds, and that will stay the same, Mann said.

“We’ve looked at the needs of our community, and as things continue to shift toward the outpatient side, our patient stays stay pretty flat,” Mann said. “So we don’t see a lot of growth there.”

Mann said hospital officials are excited about bringing more primary care physicians and specialists to Schneck so people don’t have to travel to bigger cities for care.

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.