By LARRY SHIELDS
SALEM - Salem Community Hospital President and CEO Steve Ruwoldt opened his remarks at the hospital's topping out ceremony by describing the scandinavian custom of placing a tree atop a new building.
History was in the making at Salem Community Hospital as Skanska Construction ironworkers Mike Senter, left, and Kevin Herstine placed the topping-off I-beam on the hospital’s $42.5 million patient bed tower. About 400 people signed the 30-foot long, 780-pound beam. The ceremony that featured hospital President and CEO Steve Ruwoldt making the welcoming remarks. (Salem News photo by Larry Shields)
Against a steady, appropriately chilly breeze Friday morning, Ruwoldt explained to about 175 guests that Scandinavians appeased "tree-dwelling spirits of their ancestors, who had been displaced by the new building."
Before a white I-beam carrying an American flag, a Salem Community Hospital banner, an evergreen tree and the signatures of about 400 people was raised atop the still under construction $42.5 million patient bed tower, Ruwoldt said, "Throughout the years, the ceremony has evolved into a celebration of the safe completion of a building's infrastructure. "And, while a tree is still a part of the ceremony, it now symbolizes growth and brings good luck.
"But the symbolism of growth shown during today's ceremony goes much further than that provided by the tree."
Salem Community Hospital, now in its 100th year, celebrated another "special milestone" aimed at caring for the surrounding communities.
"For the hospital's board of directors and administrative staff," Ruwoldt said, "this ceremony signifies that we are one step closer to realizing our goal of providing state-of-the-art facilities to enhance the care of our patients.
"Our new bed tower will house 87 private patient rooms that are designed to provide the latest advances in technology and comfort.
"This day is also significant for our hospital staff, our physicians and the skilled professionals who are at the bedside caring for our patients each day.
"Just like our forefathers over 100 years ago, we share the same goal of caring for the needs of our patients by providing state-of-the art equipment, technology and facilities.
"On behalf of our entire hospital 'family,' we are proud to be a part of this special day in the hospital's history.
"But most importantly, today is a wonderful day for all of the patients and communities we serve, who are at the heart of everything we do at Salem Community Hospital."
Chairwoman of the SCH Board of Directors Catherine Hubbs called it a "great day" and congratulated "everyone involved in this project" while noting the board and staff "work very hard to be good stewards of your healthcare dollars."
Jon Rettig, chairman of the SCH Charitable Foundation Board, said the months will fly by before the patient bed tower opens.
He said the hospital remains committed to providing the best possible service to every person who walks through hospital doors.
Among the guests attending the historical mile-marker were state Rep. Nick Barborak; Sarah Poulton, representing U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson; Salem Mayor John Berlin; Columbiana County Commissioners Mike Halleck, Jim Hoppel and Tim Weigle; along with Drs. Dean Economus and Peter Apicella; and current and former hospital and city officials and representatives of Skanska construction company.
Director of Public Relations Michele Hoffmeister said, "I thought it was just a wonderful way to conclude part of a significant milestone in the construction and heartwarming to see so many sign the beam.
"We had families with kids who were born at the hospital and wanted the children to have the opportunity to sign the beam and older people signed it ... and members of the hospital signed it throughout the last few days."
Hoffmeister added, "It was really nice, we were out there hosting and people would walk up and tell us their association with the hospital and it was just really nice to hear their appreciation for the hospital ... like Steve (Ruwoldt) said, the community is at the heart of everything we do at the hospital and it really rings true today."
She said the American flag and hospital banner will be archived and the opening for the patient bed tower is tentatively set for early 2014.
It includes, 87 private patient rooms, enhanced patient privacy and bedside technology, and a two-story parking garage.
Larry Shields can be reached at email@example.com