Last updated: April 10. 2014 2:07PM - 447 Views

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HAZARD (AP) — A $47 million expansion project at the Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospital in Hazard is nearly complete.

WYMT-TV reports the new three-story addition called the Joe Craft Tower has 50 patient rooms and 16 ICU beds. It also has a helipad on the top of the tower.

“Instead of flying their patients out to Lexington, they can fly their patients into here,” said ER Director Bart Francis, “And hopefully they’ll see that we have a great facility now.”

The emergency department on the first floor is set to open next Thursday. The rest of the facility is slated to open later this spring.

Hospital officials say they hope the expansion decreases wait times for patients and serves as a model for other hospitals in the region.

“The area definitely needs it,” said Chief Nursing Officer Judy Craft. “Our goal also is to keep the people in this community and still offer the same level of care that they would receive in the bigger cities.”

Hazard native Joe Craft helped fund the project with a large donation early this year.

Officials say it also will boost the area’s economy, and they hope to add staff.

“We can recruit more doctors to a nicer facility,” Francis said. “A nicer place to work, with more support services. So that improves the health of our citizens, they don’t have to travel as far for health care.”

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