[caption id="attachment_37569" align="alignleft" width="346"] A rendering of the remodeled Sonoma Valley Hospital.[/caption]

SONOMA --  The Sonoma Valley Healthcare District has settled on a $38.1 million plan for refurbishing the 83-bed hospital to make it seismically safe before the state-mandated deadline of March 2013.

The plan calls for an approximately 9,000-square-foot, two story, stone and stucco addition to the west wing of the existing hospital, just north of the current main entrance and within the on-site parking area. The addition will house a new surgical unit, a triage station and a new emergency department -- all of which will make the hospital seismically sound while enabling staff to better treat its existing patient base, said Peter Hohorst, chair of the health care district board.

"It's going to be a much more attractive hospital," Mr. Hohorst said. Preliminary and site preparation work will begin sometime in September, and construction is likely to begin next March, Mr. Hohosrt said.

The plan will "modernize the facility in the interests of better health care for the community," according to the district.

The cost of the plan is mostly covered by $35 million in general obligation bonds passed by Sonoma Valley voters two years ago, Mr. Hohorst said. The new wing initially stood to cost about $23 million. An additional $7 million was added to that cost, and design and other changes of the overall project bring the total cost to roughly $38.1 million, Mr. Hohorst said.

"The original $31 million design-build plan was decided in June of last year. In the year since then, we have added things to make it a better project," Mr. Hohorst said.

Other changes that the plan calls for include: a new central utility plant, changing the ambulance drop-off west of its existing mid-block placement on Andrieux Street, to align with the new emergency department; parking redistribution, including a reconfigured parking lot with 18 spaces, with the entrance on Bettencourt Street and the exit on Fourth Street.

Additionally, the current Bettencourt loading dock area will be eliminated. In its place will be a new chiller yard. South of the new addition, a sound wall that screens a group of generators and oxygen tanks will be replaced with an upgraded enclosure. The MRI trailer, which currently sits just outside the hospital, will be moved inside the new closure.

The construction team was decided last year as part of a “design-build” process, which allowed the hospital, with Otto Construction and Nacht-Lewis Architects, to work collaboratively on what officials say is a more cost-effective plan.  The process is typically used by private health care organizations, but district hospitals, per state law, are required to to invite bids and award contracts to the lowest bidder. The back-and-fourth between the sides involved and subsequent haggling can lead to costly delays and higher costing projects, health care district officials said.

Legislation passed in 2008 by State Sen. Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, permitted the health care district to utilize the design-build process. Mr. Hohorst estimated that the district likely saved between $7 million and $8 million by using the process.

"If we were doing a design, bid, build project, it would be more expensive," he said. "One of the advantages of doing it this way is you get to spend your money on a conscious decision, and you get a price before doing it."

Mr. Hohorst said incoming  subcontracting bids have so far been roughly the same and are actually under budget, an indication that the design-build process is helping keep costs down.

"The scope is well defined by the plans," he said.

The hospital isn't looking to expand its patient base, but rather serve the existing ones more efficiently, Mr. Hohorst said. The hospital has approximately 9,000 patient visits a year.