Old Vaughan may be converted into outpatient facility

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2005

With the new Vaughan Hospital on Medical Center Parkway, the old Vaughan sits empty and mostly useless on Dallas Avenue.

Bleeding a quarter of a million dollars annually from Vaughan Regional’s budget, it would be cheaper to tear the old hospital down and build a new facility than renovating the old building.

And that’s just what Vaughan Regional CEO Steve Mahan is considering.

Though he stresses nothing is definite and everything is still in the studying stage, Mahan is exploring a plan that would resurrect the old Vaughan campus and turn it into a modern and viable outpatient care center.

“Right now too many residents of our area drive too far sometimes to get some outpatient services that they’re going to be able to get more conveniently at this campus,” Mahan said. “What we think we will create for our market is a much more convenient venue for patients to come in and get outpatient services.”

Mahan has been in Selma two years now and inherited the closed West Dallas campus. He understands the area’s attachment to the old facility and the frustrations of his patients who come to the current facility for outpatient care but have to wait if the hospital has emergency patients who take priority.

“You have an inherent conflict between being able to hold to an outpatient schedule and an emergency situation. On top of that we haven’t even mentioned having to work in-patients into this yet,” Mahan said. “So we remove that inherent conflict by taking it across town where it will be dedicated to outpatients.”

Though the exact services to be offered are still being studied, Mahan mentioned diagnostic imaging (like an MRI) and physical therapy as two areas a new facility could serve.

Mahan added that whether or not the old building is a viable option is still being studied, but he said it is likely that it would be cheaper to tear the building down and start over.

“Now if it’s ever reopened as a hospital or other healthcare facility, it has to meet the latest life safety code. We have had estimates in the range $7 to $10 million to bring that building up to code not even to include the cost of renovating the inside or altering the floor plans to meet your needs,” Mahan said. “There is asbestos encased in that building that has to be mitigated first before you can demolish it. There are the environmental issues. It costs us a quarter million dollars a year just for that building to sit there.”

Mahan said other options for the campus have been considered.

“We actually looked at donating that building to Wallace Community College so that they could create a health career campus. They did their own detailed study on the integrity of the building and the power systems and came away with the conclusion that we can build what we need cheaper than we can renovate this,” he said.

Now Mahan is attempting to put a plan in place that would make that campus useful again while improving patient services.

“It positions Vaughan Regional very competively. I think it will be a real asset to our service area and it will provide more timely convenient service for the patients,” he said. “I think they will enjoy that and get studies that are just as good as what they get at the hospital and as technology continues to evolve we will be able to do more and more in that type of setting.”

Mahan stressed that he is aware of the emotional attachment citizens have for the old building, but he hopes they will appreciate what a new facility could offer.

“I know for the community it’s an emotional issue. They hate to see a beloved institution sitting over there and a building just sitting there, it’s sad. A hospital or an organization is not bricks and mortar it’s the people inside that hospital delivering the care using their talents. So you have the original hospital that’s now a museum you have the building that sits empty on West Dallas that was the Vaughan and now you have this facility that is the Vaughan,” Mahan said. “The Vaughan is still the Vaughan and I know some people don’t buy that but my employees buy it, I certainly buy it. We’re sure providing a lot of care here and we’re getting better at it every day.”

Mahan said if they decide to go ahead with a new facility on the old campus, 24-to-36 months would be a realistic timetable.

“I’m very excited about the possibility but I want to be very clear it’s not a definite,” he said. “(However) we wouldn’t be spending the amount of time we are on it if we didn’t feel like it has some real potential.”