Hospital renovation project officially begins Wednesday.

It's been years in the making but the first step in construction for the new addition and renovation of Pratt Regional Medical Center will start with demolition on Wednesday.

A crowd gathered Monday afternoon on the north side of the hospital for a ceremonial ground breaking on the site that will soon be busy with construction activity.

At a reception in the hospital cafeteria after the ground breaking, Rich Sanders, Pratt County Hospital Board Chairman, said it took faith and courage for those people 65 years ago to build the first hospital facility.

That courage has led to the current hospital complex that employs over 450 and served 50,000 patients in 2012, Sanders said.

Bill Keller, PRMC Board Chairman, said it took a lot more than the five original board members and the three county commissioners to get the first hospital started in 1949 and it has taken a lot of support from the community to get this project underway.

"It is an important asset for the physical health and well being of the community," Keller said. "It also has a huge economic impact on the community."

When new people want to move to Pratt, their first questions are about schools and health care. No other community this size has this facility, Keller said.

She was very proud of everyone involved, said PRMC President and CEO Susan Page.

"We're thrilled to be moving forward."

She especially thanked Hilary Dolbee, PRMC vice president for finances officer and Mike Patton, PRMC manager of plant operations for their hard work to make the addition and upgrade a reality.

The changes will not only affect current patients but also the children and grandchildren in Pratt and the surrounding communities.

In 2012, 50,000 patients were treated at the hospital. From a service stand point the hospital touches a lot of lives.

With over 450 employees, the hospital is a major economic engine in the community and a lot of money gets turned over.

Page shared the saying that expresses how quickly everyone at the hospital wants to get this done.

"24 months won't come soon enough," Page said.

Tim Dudte, Health Facilities Group that designed the hospital, said the addition and renovations were designed with future additions to the hospital in mind. The final design allowed for $5 million in savings in the overall cost of the project.

The addition and renovation provided many challenges but the biggest was developing a design that allowed for construction in an existing building and keeping it in operation, Dudte said.

Among the many additions and changes will be new patient rooms, new outpatient area with all services visible upon entering the hospital, new operating suites, more rooms for endoscope procedures, more pre-op rooms, more medical surgery beds, enhanced radiology and nuclear medicine, a new entryway, tornado shelter and much more.

Dudte said he was really comfortable with the outcome. The new design works better for a modern hospital.

"I think it's incredibly functional," Dudte said. "I really like the way it's going to look."

Spencer Levin, of Hutton Construction that will build the new facility and do the renovation said demolition will start Wednesday and the new one-story patient wing will be the first portion of the facility to be constructed along with an additional 8,000 square feet to surgery. This construction will be on the north of the existing building in the parking lot on the west side of the property between the hospital and the construction trailers.

Construction on the first phase will take a year. The rest of the construction and renovation will be divided into four phases each lasting three months. Approximate construction time is 24 months with completion scheduled in the first quarter of 2015, Dudte said.

The biggest challenge during construction will be coordinating the work on the existing infrastructure and mechanical so it will minimize interference with hospital services. Dudte said he estimates from 30 to 35 tradesmen will be working on the average day but about 60 will be working during the phase one new patient wing.