North Big Horn Hospital lab remodel in progress

Patti Carpenter

The lab construction project at North Big Horn Hospital, which began just a few short weeks ago, is proceeding on time and on budget. In fact, most patients receiving lab services probably haven’t even noticed that it’s happening, since all the construction is going on in an area normally seen only by lab employees.

 “Nothing has changed for patients as far as where they go to get their blood drawn,” explained Lab Manager Kathy Walker. “The only thing that has changed is that the main laboratory where lab staff do the testing has been temporarily located next door. It’s where the scientists do the testing.”

Walker said setting up the testing equipment in a nearby temporary space during the construction went very smoothly, with no disruption of services.

She said patients might notice an area that is closed off that was once visible from the patient window, but other than that, everything looks the same from a patient’s perspective. She said, though most of the loud construction noise from jackhammers and other noisy equipment has, for the most part, subsided, patients may hear some minor construction sounds coming from the construction area.

“I think most people are relieved that the loudest part is over,” Walker said.

She said patients should go to the same area they normally go to for testing and expect the same experience.

Walker said the biggest benefit of the remodel will be creating a safer work environment for staff working behind the scenes in the testing area. It also allows for expansion of services in the future, should they be needed. She said the need for reorganizing and updating the space became very clear during the Covid pandemic, when the demands for specific types of testing increased dramatically.

“The space was also about 40 years old and in need of updating, because the cabinetry, flooring and everything was old,” explained Walker. “Things like touchless, pedal operated sinks will make it safer for employees.

“We’re not getting a whole lot more space in the lab, but the redesign of the space will make it flow better. People won’t be running into one another anymore because of the way the space is designed. So, just the redesign of the space itself is better for the safety of the staff.”

The project is expected to start winding down by the end of the summer and should be complete by the fall. The $577,000 improvement project was paid for in part by a State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) grant of $214,000.