The future of Catawba Valley Medical Center rests on a black-top parking lot beside the hospital's current facilities.
In about two years, however, that parking lot will be a $32-million, state-of-the-art women's and oncology pavilion.
Community leaders, the hospital's staff and its board of directors gathered in the parking lot Thursday for a groundbreaking ceremony on the five-level pavilion, which is set for completion in 2013.
Tony Rose, CVMC president and CEO, spoke with the crowd of people, who were huddled under a tent in anticipation of rain.
Rose called Thursday a historic moment in the history of the hospital, which couldn't have happened without the hard work and dedication of hospital and county staff members.
Rose estimated the project will have a direct and indirect economic impact of more than $110 million to Catawba County. He said no taxpayer dollars are included in the project. The hospital saved $11 million to fund the addition, and the remainder will be financed through bonds paid off through the years from patient care.
"We truly are witness a change (in health care) with so much technology," said Kitty Barnes, Catawba County Board of Commissioners chairwoman. "Who would have thought we'd be doing robotic surgery 20 years ago? It's happening right here (at CVMC)."
The pavilion's entry level includes a separate entrance into the facility, a gift shop, a reception area and visitor elevators.
The pavilion's service level will have facilities for medical outpatient treatment, a pharmacy, an education area, as well as labor triage space for women who think they're in labor.
The first floor of the pavilion contains rooms for inpatient oncology treatment and additional space for patients' family members.
"You only have one door to come to get all the services you need when you come," Rose said.
There will be 18 labor, delivery, recovery and post-partum rooms for new mothers and their children. That floor will also have a room dedicated for cesarean-section procedures and a bridge to the hospital's second-floor tower.
The top floor of the new pavilion will house a special-care nursery with 13 individual bays and seven shared bays for infants and their families.
"We're giving these infants a chance," Rose said. "And when you see them come back for a reunion, it's amazing."
Barnes said the hospital expansion will also present economic development opportunities for the county.
She said business owners looking for places to relocate always ask her about the quality of medical care in the county.
"I'm always proud to respond that we have the finest in medical care," she said.
The hospital recently added new operating rooms to its existing structure. These rooms nearly doubled the size of existing hospital rooms to increase space for medical equipment and personnel.
Hospital leaders said the economic downturn presented a good opportunity to expand the facility, with lower construction costs now than when the project was first proposed.