Cullman Regional announces $30M expansion, including Critical Care Unit, ER

Hospital will also create Outpatient Behavioral Health Program

Architectural rendering shows the expansion set to take place at Cullman Regional. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

Updated 6-27-19 12:47 p.m.

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Health Care Authority of Cullman County/ Cullman Regional Board of Directors announced Thursday they have initiated a $30 million expansion to the current facility. The expansion will increase the capacity of the Critical Care Unit (CCU) by 50%, increase the capacity of the Emergency Department by 50% and reduce the usage of semi-private rooms throughout the facility.  

“Cullman Regional continues to see a growing number of patients through the Emergency Department,” said Board Chair Beth Anderson. “Last year, the ER provided care for nearly 50,000 patients in a facility built to care for up to 40,000 annually. Many of these patients are sicker and require a higher-level of care, which is provided best in our Critical Care Unit (CCU). Therefore, we need a solution that allows more critically-ill patients access to critical care beds more quickly.”

The expansion plans include:

  • Increase the number of Critical Care Beds from 12 to 18
  • Expand the current Emergency Room facility from 21 exam rooms and three behavior health treatment rooms to 30 exam rooms and eight behavior health treatment rooms
  • Create an Outpatient Behavioral Health Program
  • Hospital-wide infrastructure upgrades to accommodate the additional capacity

“During my time at Cullman Regional we’ve had a very simple strategy and that strategy is to continue to offer new opportunities and create those new opportunities consistently so that our local patients and communities can receive their care locally,” said Cullman Regional CEO James Clements. “Thanks to the efforts of all the team here at Cullman Regional, many of whom you see here today, we are announcing yet another expansion project and we are blessed to be able to do that in this current economy. The opportunity is a $30 million expansion project that we filed a letter of intent for yesterday. That is four basic components: a 50% increase in the number of patient treatment rooms in our emergency room, a 50% increase in our Critical Care Unit capacity and the development of an outpatient behavioral program. The fourth component is an infrastructure upgrade that will be necessary to support the new square footage added onto the hospital.”

Said Clements, ““In order for us to more effectively and efficiently provide care for all patients coming to us for treatment, these upgrades to our current facility are necessary. Particularly the need for more effective treatment options for our behavioral health patients is needed in order to prevent continuous readmissions of those patients.”

Cullman Regional’s Emergency Department provided medical care to more than 1,000 behavioral health patients in 2018. Caring for behavioral health patients is a national, state and local issue that is not unique to Cullman County. Cullman Regional’s goal with the Outpatient Behavioral Health Program is to provide care for patients in our community that consistently face barriers to receiving behavioral health care. As the project progresses, the hospital will continue to share updates about what this specifically looks like for our community.

“Our current emergency room was built for a capacity not to exceed around 40,000 patients a year and we are seeing around 50,000 patients a year in our emergency room,” said Clements. The third cog of the initiative is the Outpatient Behavioral Program. We are seeing over 1,000 behavioral health patients a year in our emergency rooms. Those people are struggling to find ways to access care. Our Critical Care Unit is kind of a function of the increased capacity of the sicker patients coming into our ER and our need for additional capacity for those.”

The overall facility will receive an infrastructure upgrade in order to accommodate the additional capacity. The infrastructure upgrade will include the expansion of the onsite power plant by approximately 1,100 square feet, replacement of the cooling towers, addition of two new chillers, addition of new elevator controls and modification of remaining two service elevators to allow them to access all levels of the hospital.

“The administrative team began reducing the use of semi-private rooms in the fourth quarter of 2018 and has only utilized them during high-census periods, when more patients are being admitted,” Clements said. “By reallocating those beds and expanding our CCU, we will be able to care for more critically-ill patients.”

The benefits of the expansion include:

  • Reduction in semi-private room usage housewide
  • Expansion of emergency room capacity from 40,000 to 60,000 annually
  • Better access to the highest level of care for the sickest patients
  • Better access to outpatient behavioral health treatment for our community
  • Upgrades to existing infrastructure to make it more sustainable for the future.

Hal Starkey, associate principal architect with TRO Jung | Brannen in Birmingham, was on-hand for Thursday morning’s announcement.

“It’s always an honor for myself and Grady Black, my partner at TRO, to work at Cullman,” he said. “Both of us worked on the original hospital so we’re approaching about 25 years. For an architect, it’s a wonderful experience and we’ve enjoyed every group that we’ve worked with on campus. I think Cullman represents an example of a hospital that was designed to allow for expansion and I think when you see these images, you can see that everything we do tries to integrate the campus.”

The hospital recently filed a Letter of Intent to file a Certificate of Need (CON) to the Alabama State Health Planning & Development Agency followed by the official filing of the CON.  If approved, anticipated construction will begin in the third quarter of 2020. Phase 1 of construction will include the expansion of the Emergency Department, phase 2 will include infrastructure improvements and Phase 3 will be the addition of the critical care beds which will be a ground floor to fourth floor expansion of the west units of the current facility.

For more information about Cullman Regional, call at 256-737-2000 or visit