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Groundbreakings signal health care expansion in St. Charles County

SitemanWithin two hours of each other on Oct. 29, two separate health care providers turned the first shovels on dirt on two very different expansion projects expected to increase the scope of health care services in St. Charles County.

Siteman Cancer Center kicked off the activity with a groundbreaking ceremony at the center’s existing facility adjacent to Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital. The $13.1 million project will expand the existing site from 19,500 square feet to 30,750 square feet and is expected to be completed by November 2016.

It is the first major expansion of the facility since it opened in 2005. The renovations will nearly double the patient capacity at that location, taking exam rooms from eight to 20 and chemotherapy infusion stations from 11 to 32.  The added space will accommodate growth of medical, radiation and surgical oncology practices.

Larry Tracy, president of Barnes-Jewish St. Peters and Progress West hospitals in St. Charles County, said the cancer center has a rich history in St. Peter as it was the first satellite facility outside of Siteman’s St. Louis camous.

“Quite frankly through, we’ve got a problem, we’ve run out of space,” Tracy said.

St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano, another participant in the groundbreaking, said the expansion was a “serious investment” in the city. Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, part of BJC HealthCare, is contributing $10. 6 million to the expansion, with Washington University School of Medicine providing the rest.

A few miles away and two hours later, three community partners broke ground on a new location for the city of St. Charles Post Office that also opens the door to the expansion of SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital-St. Charles at the old post office site.

SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital-St. Charles, Lindenwood University, the U.S. Postal Service and other community partners are part of a community project that took years to realize. Terms of the complicated deal include relocating the old post office from its current location at 112 S. Fifth Street to the newly developed University Commons shopping center on First Capitol Drive.

The new 21,500-square-foot new post office, will be behind the Schnucks Market on 3.83 acres donated by Lindenwood University. Construction of the $5.2 million facility is funded by SSM Health-St. Louis and the St. Charles County Road Board. It’s expected to be completed by June 2016.

As part of the exchange, St. Joseph Hospital-St. Charles will acquire the post office site on South Fifth Street and use it for further expansion as part of the city’s planned “First Capitol/Fifth Street hospital district.”

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, one of a number of speakers, noted that while the idea of moving the post office and more hospital space always made sense but it was difficult for people to agree.  “We all know how important it is for that hospital to remain in St. Charles and continue to grow and provide the services it has provided,” he said.

Another person who lauded the deal was Vitilas “Veto” Reid, the long-time St. Charles postmaster, who retired in 2001. Reid, who spent more than 50 years as a postal employee, remains active in community affairs. In 2004, a postal branch office on Natural Bridge Road was named after him.

“This is amazing, it took many years to develop,” Reid said at the ground breaking. “I’m happy to see this come to pass.”

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