JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The members of St. Bernards Medical Center received a special visitor on Thursday.
Bishop Anthony Basil Taylor from the Diocese of Little Rock traveled all the way to St. Bernards to bless the foundation of the new tower under construction on the hospital's campus.
Mother Johanna Marie Melnyk with the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters of the Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro said the event marked the work of the past, present, and future.
"I think today's event is a culmination of the work we've been doing at St. Bernards over the past couple of years," Mother Melnyk said. "To update and consolidate our cancer center and our heart care center. And upgrade our ER department as well. It's also the beginning of our new tower construction. So, Bishop Taylor is blessing what we've completed and the beginnings of our new construction. So, obviously, it's important for us to be moving forward and to be offering these new services to the community."
Bishop Anthony Basil Taylor said he was proud to come and contribute to the day.
"As Bishop of the Diocese in Little Rock," Bishop Taylor said. "I want to promote the work of the church and the work of Jesus throughout the entire state. And this is an exciting time for us right here in Jonesboro. When the healing ministry of Jesus is being expanded through the work of the sisters and the work of St. Bernards Hospital, I wanted to be here to give encouragement and extend the blessing of the Lord to this place."
After Bishop Taylor blessed the foundation he placed medals in it that was originally in the old hospital annex building.
Before it was a hospital, it was the sisters' convent.
Mother Melnyk said it was wonderful to see all the progress the hospital has made over the years.
"Our sisters founded the hospital back in 1900," Mother Melnyk said. "It was a six-room farmhouse and I wish they could see what we have here today. I'm sure they'd just be astonished with what we have. But I think we have such good management pushing forward to keep offering new services so the people of Northeast Arkansas have what they need rather than having to go to Memphis or Little Rock. So, I'm sure our sisters would be proud of that."
"I've always been very impressed with what St. Bernards has done all along," Bishop Taylor said. "This is just one more of those things. Really equipping themselves to provide good service to the people here in Northeast Arkansas."
Vice President of Affiliated and Senior Services, Kevin Hodges, said the new tower is bringing in additional jobs and medical services.
"The tower is important to not only Jonesboro, but Northeast Arkansas," Hodges said. "It's going to be a 250,000-square foot facility. Bringing lots of construction jobs and local jobs. We're actually getting our steel from Nucor in Blytheville. So, we're pleased to be able to support our local areas with this construction. We'll be doing additional services in the facility. We'll be adding additional intensive care unit beds. As well as very high-level surgery suites that will be located in this particular facility."
Hodges said this tower is part of a plan that began years ago.
"We've been working on our master plan since 2014," Hodges said. "It's a four-phase project. This is phase three. We finished up our cancer center in 2016. Our Heart Care Center will be finishing up this year. And the new tower will be part of phase three, finishing up in 2019. As well as we'll be going into the medical center and doing lots of renovations and additions there and hopefully we'll finish those up in 2019."
The tower will feature an entrance into an atrium on the ground level.
Also, there will be access to admissions and registration, along with a coffee shop, education rooms, and a chapel in the tower not to mention improved wayfinding for families and visitors.
It will also include support services for surgery and critical care areas.
The first level of the tower will house 14 surgical suites, along with support programs like pharmacy and the GI Lab.
The second level will house a critical care unit containing 40 beds.
The third level will be for future growth and expansion while the top level will be the mechanical area.
After Bishop Taylor blessed the foundation of the new tower, he blessed three additional construction sites on the hospital's campus.
For more information about St. Bernards Medical Center, click here.
For additional information about the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters of the Holy Angels Convent, click here.