Newton Regional Aims Higher

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If officials at Newton regional Hospital have their way, an empty field nearby, located on Highway 15 between Newton and Decatur, will be its new home.

The current facility was built in 1952. Officials say it's time for a new one.

"The aggregate life of a hospital is about 25-40 years, and with technology, it's even less," said administrator Timothy Thomas. "So we're going on borrowed time, and I think it's vital that we have a new facility."

The new facility will have fewer beds, but an extra 10,000 square feet of space. It will have upgraded emergency facilities, clinics, a dining hall, laboratories, and 30 beds.

The hospital's designer says it will be more functional than the present facility.

"It will allow the different departments to be on the same floor and make it much more convenient for each department," said Johnny Wynne.

The price tag for the new hospital is estimated at $6.6 million. It will be paid for with a variety of federal and state taxes.

Hospital officials say they hope to have an answer on loan applications by March. If approved, construction would begin immediately, and should be complete by the end of 2004.