The light at the end of tunnel is beginning to shine in the construction of the Ascension St. Vincent’s Health Center on County Road 210 in St. Johns County.
Although the project is not scheduled to be completed until July 2022, a topping out ceremony was held July 14 to mark a significant point in the building process.
“It’s when we set our last beam or pour our last section of concrete for the structure,” said Eric Sharpe, division manager with Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors. “It’s a milestone in our industry that we celebrate, because we’ve reached the peak of the mountain, so to speak. Now it’s about traveling down the mountain, and you’ll begin to see more of the interiors built out.”
According to Sharpe, the project remains pretty much on its original scheduled finish projection, which is a feat because so many factors can play a role in delaying progress.
“It is a tremendous accomplishment by our project team and subcontractor partners to overcome not only COVID at the start of the project, but also labor shortages,” Sharpe said. “It is a true testament to the team working together.”
Once built, the facility will be very similar to the Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County Hospital in Middleburg that was completed in 2013.
However, the new hospital will be adapted to help meet the needs of the St. Johns County community as part of Ascension St. Vincent’s hospital ministry.
“This day is St. Vincent’s delivering on a promise,” Market CEO for Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast Tom VanOsdol said. “It is an honor to be here serving you. I can’t wait to be here just under a year from now, blessing and dedicating this facility.”
The ministry was mentioned throughout the presentation and is at the root of everything Ascension St. Vincent’s does.
“It’s just so important to us, and we’ve been providing care for the underserved communities here (St. Johns County) since 2014 with our mobile help outreach ministry,” said Virginia Hall, president and chief development officer of Ascension St. Vincent’s Foundation. “We’ve served over 9,000 patients, and there is such a need for care and access to health care.”
Hall is excited to not only open the new hospital next summer but also continue the mobile outreach already in place.
“We’ll be able to provide it on a much larger scale,” Hall said. “I feel very blessed to be able to work for an organization where I believe in the mission so strongly and know that what I’m doing is making a difference for people.”
More than 300 employment positions will be filled when the hospital opens.
According to St. Johns County Commissioner Henry Dean, the hospital will help as the county’s population has reached 265,000 and only continues to grow.
He also sees the hospital’s location helping to fill a void in health-care options in the “underserved” northern portion of the county.
“The response has been overwhelming because folks are so glad, not just to have a hospital that’s accessible and convenient for them, but specifically to have Ascension St. Vincent’s here because they know our quality, exceptional physicians and passionate care,” VanOsdol said. “It’s our first core value to care for those who are poor and vulnerable.”
Those in attendance signed their names on the beam that was going to be final beam of the structure, and it was blessed by Monsignor Keith Brennan, pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Ponte Vedra Beach.
The ceremony took place on the cement slab that will be the site of the hospital’s emergency wing once completed.