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Bayfront starts big project

Bayfront Medical Center starts a major building project this week that will expand services and change the hospital's longtime east entryways.

The $25-million renovation will result in new operating rooms and six critical care beds for cardiovascular patients.

The 502-bed hospital, Pinellas County's only trauma center, will remain in full operation during the work, which is expected to take about two years.

But gone will be the main entrance and the emergency room entrance that patients and visitors have used for years on Sixth Street S.

The main door to go inside will become the west entrance at the circular drive off Seventh Street S. The 24-hour emergency room entrance will shift to Sixth Avenue S _ just around the corner from its old location. (The door that ambulance crews use to serve patients will remain where it is now.)

Admitting, patient information and executive offices have been moved to the west entrance corridor.

"We are trying to emphasize to people coming to (Bayfront) to use the west entrance," said Eric Feder, Bayfront Health System's chief operating officer.

Impacts on parking and traffic patterns are expected to be minimal during the project. Sixth Street S may constrict traffic because a fence will separate the construction site from the street. But no street closures are planned.

The 70,000-square-foot project is the biggest Bayfront expansion since the emergency department was overhauled two years ago, Feder said.

The emergency department roughly doubled in size, but that was not as big as the new project, Feder said.

All the work is part of the hospital's long-range strategy and is made necessary by increasing patient numbers and the goal of creating a more efficient facility, he said.

"The driver was the investment we need to make in developing the core of the surgical programs. We've outgrown the space and the equipment," Feder said.

The hospital has eight operating rooms. That number will expand to 12, 10 of them new and two renovated ones.

The project will be financed by a combination of philanthropic giving, borrowing and a planned capital campaign. Bayfront, a former public hospital called Mound Park, took its current name in 1968 and became a private, nonprofit community hospital and teaching center.

Bayfront's newest project continues a pattern of expansion in the city's medical district, which lies roughly between Fourth and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. streets and Fifth Avenue and Booker Creek.

In the past few years, new medical offices and buildings have turned the area into a substantial "medical campus" with a wide range of services.

All Children's Hospital, just down the street from Bayfront, plans a new hospital and outreach center on nearly 1-million square feet. Officials hope the new hospital will open in 2007.

Bayfront Medical Center

1. Construction area

2. New ER entrance, ER sign-in and waiting room

3. West entrance and patient dropoff