PEPPERELL -- After six months of construction, the renovations on the Pepperell Veterinary Hospital are finally completed.
The temporary trailers, which had been erected in the front yard to serve as treatment areas while construction was underway, pulled out of the parking lots at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7. The tunnel leading up to the back door, which had served as a temporary entrance, was also removed. The staff and patients moved into the new office space and treatment rooms later that day.
"To say we're relieved is putting it mildly. We're ecstatic," said the office manager Kathy Howard. "We were very happy to see those trailers moved out."
The trailers presented a challenge, but the staff didn't skip a beat. The office never altered their hours and the staff proceeded through all weather conditions to bring their patients to and from the trailers. Because there were no phones or computers inside the temporary structures, all staff members carried walkie talkies to communicate. The trailers also occupied a huge portion of the parking lot.
"It was very, very difficult. It was hard on the clients, too, but we tried to make it as easy as possible," said Howard. "And we were passing out candy for six months for any inconvenience."
The staff operated out of a small back office while the main office was being remodeled.
But in the end, said Howard, it was all worth it.
"It's wonderful. We have all the space we have ever wanted or needed," she said.
Walking around the back of the building, clients can see an immediate difference from the outside. The entire back of the building has been expanded, and the roof has been raised in multiple places. But from the inside, the difference is astounding.
Where there had once been a short entryway leading to a desk and a waiting room, there now exists a long hallway, with two separate waiting areas on either end -- one for cats and one for dogs. There are now two full desks for patient check-ins and all files are able to be stored in a single location.
"We used to have a very cramped front office. We had some (files) in front, but we had to keep files in four different rooms. Whenever we had to look for a record, we had to go to a different room to find a different portion of the alphabet. Now they're all in the front office," said Howard.
But best of all, said Howard, are the new exam rooms. There are now five exam rooms where previously there had only been three, two of which were very small, according to Howard.
"When we would have two doctors on doing appointments, there wouldn't be enough room to get the next patient ready," said Howard. "Now we have five exam rooms and the two new ones added are much larger. We are able to have tech visits in one exam room, and two exam rooms for each doctor that's on."
The hospital also added a large treatment area for the doctors to conduct surgeries.
"We only had a very small treatment area before, which all the doctors had to share. There was one treatment table, so if one doctor was doing surgery prep, the other doctors couldn't use the table," said Howard.
They added two new surgery tables, and the old surgery table is now used strictly for prep.
There is now a new pharmacy area as well. Now, all medications are stored in a single room, with the exception of controlled substances. Previously, medications had been stored in five different rooms.
"You can imagine how much time was used searching down medication," said Howard.
Construction began in August and was handled by Basnett Design-Rebuild-Remodel Construction of Littleton. Originally, the hospital had hoped to finish the project in December, but they hit a snag with the heating system, causing the timeline to be pushed back a few months.
"We had to put a whole new heating system in because the old system couldn't handle it," said Howard. "That was a big bump in the road ... we had to redo the whole hospital."
Although its appearance has changed, the hospital services remain as they always have, said Howard. The hospital has the potential of accommodating anywhere between 40 and 80 patients a day. Four veterinarians are on staff. The hours of operation remain the same: Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 a.m. to noon.
"We haven't changed anything about that. We have the same potential we had before. The only difference is we have more space to see them in a more timely fashion. We needed the elbow room. We're hoping this is going to make us more efficient," said Howard.