Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Construction Beam Put in Place, Marking Kaiser Milestone

Construction Beam Put in Place, Marking Kaiser Milestone
'Topping Off' Helps Hospital Meet Schedule to Complete Project by 2008
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

The ceremony commemorating the installation of the last beam to Vallejo's new Kaiser hospital went off without a hitch Monday.

In keeping with a building trades tradition that may be thousands of years old, several local dignitaries joined Kaiser Permanente Medical Center staff and officials to witness the symbolic "topping off" event. Friday, Kaiser staff and members signed the white steel beam, which was raised by a huge red crane, following a symbolic "thumbs up" by local hard-hat clad dignitaries. Sitting atop the beam, were a potted evergreen tree and an American flag.

The Kaiser Vallejo project, which will eventually produce a state-of-the-art medical facility, is slightly ahead of schedule, despite recent inclement weather, said Kaiser area manager Deborah Romer. The facility is set for completion in 2008.

"While all our partners cooperated during this project, the weather has been less cooperative," Romer said. "We've had one of the wettest winters on record. But the project is actually ahead of schedule by a couple of weeks."

The event signifies the completion of one construction phase and the beginning of the next, Kaiser spokesman Jim Caroompas said.

"It signals the completion of the skeleton of the building. The shell. Now they start on the walls and the floor," Caroompas said.

Kaiser Vallejo's physician in chief, Steve Stricker, noted that even as Vallejo gets a new Kaiser hospital, another is being built in Vacaville.

"Kaiser is investing more time and money in Solano County than anywhere else in the United States," Stricker said. "Kaiser will have the most modern facilities in the region when the Vallejo and Vacaville projects are done."

Kaiser is the only medical group offering members who sign up for it, free e-mail access to their doctors, prescription refills, medical advice and other services on the Internet, Stricker said.

Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli Jr. said the project will help Kaiser meet the state's stricter earthquake standards, which made most California hospital facilities obsolete.

"The new hospital represents a major investment in the community," Intintoli said.

When it's all done, most of Kaiser Vallejo's circa 1975 building will be demolished to create added, much-needed parking, hospital officials said.

Many parking spots currently being used by construction workers and their equipment, will be available when the project is complete, Kaiser spokesman Mel Orpilla said.

"Plus a lot of people from the North Bay who come here, will go to Vacaville, instead, and that should help. It should also help traffic on the freeway," Orpilla said.

The 1995 Vallejo hospital addition will be renovated and connected to the new structure, officials said. The seven-story hospital tower is expected to come down in 2013.

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.

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