EXETER — Fears of lawsuits in the wake of a hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital won't put the brakes on plans for a new medical facility in Epping or improvements at Synergy Health and Fitness.
Hospital spokesman Ryan Lawrence said the development of the Epping Regional Health Center now under construction and the future opening of a comprehensive musculoskeletal center at the Synergy building are moving forward as planned.
“Through both projects we look to expand access and help serve our patients of today and the future by providing the most effective and efficient possible care. The two new facilities also provide the opportunity to consolidate services, resources and space among our affiliates,” Lawrence said.
Construction of the $6 million Epping Regional Health Center on Route 125 began in the spring. Hospital officials have said the 25,650-square-foot medical facility will increase patient choice and access to health care services provided by Exeter Hospital and Core Physicians. It's slated to open during the winter of 2013.
Meanwhile, Synergy Health and Fitness — located on the hospital campus — is expected to close Dec. 1 for 14 months as construction begins on the new musculoskeletal center. The facility is scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2014.
The projects come at a time of uncertainty for the hospital as lawsuits have either been filed or are in the works following the discovery of a hepatitis C outbreak linked to the hospital's cardiac catheterization lab and recovery room. As many as 26 patients who received care through the facility have been diagnosed with an identical strain of the potentially life-threatening virus in addition to one hospital employee.
State public health officials have said they believe the outbreak was caused by a hospital worker who abused drugs meant for patients.
Despite a probe into the hepatitis C outbreak involving numerous federal, state and local agencies, the hospital insists that its building projects will remain on track.
“Both projects support our mission of striving to improve the health of the communities we serve and allow us to help meet a growing demand for future health and wellness needs in the Seacoast region. As we have done in the past, we continue the need to adapt to changes and we firmly believe our investment with these two projects allows us to further expand needed health care services, improve the health of our community, improve our patients' experience and reduce the cost of health care for our community,” Lawrence said.
Attempts to reach Exeter Hospital CEO Kevin Callahan to discuss the hospital's future have been unsuccessful. Lawrence has said Callahan is not available for interviews.