Little Company of Mary Hospital (LCMH) is preparing to renovate its emergency department, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the hospital, 2800 W. 95th St., on Aug. 6 to start the project that officials said will take about two years.

New construction, officials said, will increase the emergency department’s square footage by about 40 percent. It will also provide safer, more private amenities for patients.

“What a gift it is to be able to transform our emergency department to meet our community’s needs for a world-class health care facility,” LCMH CEO Dr. John Hanlon said. “We recognize that the emergency department is the front door to our institution and oftentimes the first impression of Little Company of Mary. We’re not just breaking ground today; we’re achieving yet another important milestone in our transformational journey.”

Hanlon joined several other hospital officials and elected officials at the groundbreaking.

According to LCMH Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Bill Walsh, the renovations will include a dedicated fast-track area, a behavioral health suite and an embedded imaging suite, so patients do not have to leave the emergency department to receive X-rays, CAT scans or ultrasounds.

The department was renovated in the early 2000s when 11 rooms were added, Walsh said; but, the hospital has outgrown that, and patients felt crowded.

“It served our community well,” Walsh said, “but now we have this big transformation that we’re very excited about.”

Officials also said the new space will use environmentally friendly materials to enhance privacy and safety, and reduce noise.

The groundbreaking included prayers and a blessing from the Rev. Matthew O’Donnell, and Stacy O’Brien, the emergency department’s nurse manager, said her staff is excited about an improved workspace.

“It is with a great sense of pride and fulfillment that the staff of the emergency department looks forward to meeting the ongoing needs of our community,” O’Brien said. “This extension project validates that Little Company of Mary Hospital has the technology to heal and the mission to care.”

Officials said in July that LCMH and OSF HealthCare, a Catholic health system based in Peoria, “entered a period of exclusive negotiations, anticipating a full merger” by 2020.

That came about a year after a planned merger with the Rush system fell through.

It also came about a month after officials from MetroSouth Medical Center, in Blue Island, said the hospital would close at the end of the year if a new operator isn’t found.

Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton referred to the problems other hospitals are experiencing, but he lauded the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary’s vision almost 90 years ago in opening the hospital and becoming a fixture on 95th Street.

He hopes the hospital enjoys another century of success.

“Hopefully somebody will be sitting here 100 years from now,” Sexton said, “with the same vision.”