Wrangell has been trying to replace its hospital for over five years. After several stops and starts, the Wrangell Medical Center Board seems to be one step closer to a new facility.

The board approved a $24,000 feasibility study in February, which is now getting underway. BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation Director Michael Congedo is conducting the two-part study.

“We wanted to determine the amount of debt the hospital can afford to carry on its books. So we are doing a debt capacity analysis first,” Congedo said. “Then we will come back and do a feasibility study report, which discusses a lot of the hospital’s operations and volume and financial projections for the future.”

Congedo explained the study to the board Wednesday. Juneau architect firm Jenson Yorba Lott will be working with Congedo to create a preliminary design for the building, destined for borough-owned land off Wood Street. 

Senior Architect Wayne Jensen has been speaking with department heads and hospital staff to estimate the size of the new facility.  

“The whole point is to look and see what would be a new building compared to what they have now – then to take those interviews and develop a program, a space program,” Jenson said.

The space program will determine how many rooms will go into the new building, detailing the required space and overall size of the structure. 

Jensen and his partner Joann Lott will then create a preliminary design, which will be compared to Congedo’s feasibility study. The design will be a jumping off point for not only what the new building would look like, but will determine if the hospital and borough can afford it.

Jensen added that after spending time in the hospital, there’s no question it’s nearing the end of its life.

“It’s getting to be old. There’s leaking pipes, spaces that have been converted into offices or converted into program spaces that used to be storage rooms or restrooms,” Jenson explained. “They’re just really struggling for space up there, and they’re providing good services, but I think it’s time to look at a new building.”

The design will also factor in other costs such as permitting, inspections and new equipment.

“Those types of things that will provide a total project cost, and once we have that total project cost, we can evaluate that against the feasibility study to determine how those match,” Jenson said.

The first half of the feasibility study and the preliminary design are expected to be complete within the month. Medical center CEO Robert Rang said the board will present the findings of the project to the Wrangell Borough Assembly.