PEABODY — Fifteen years later, the only reminder of a bank that once operated next to the Northshore Mall is the facade of the building that housed it.
It was 1994 when Lahey Clinic transformed the inside into a medical center with an emergency room and an array of outpatient services.
The clinic has gradually outgrown the confines of the old bank building, and it began an expansion last year. Now, the shell of a sleek and modern wing is complete.
Workers last week were busy fashioning the inside of the 65,000-square-foot addition. It is expected to be ready by June.
The new space will give the clinic room to breathe, said Robert J. Schneider, a senior vice president of Lahey. The extra room will allow Lahey to enhance services and provide new treatments, such as a state-of-the-art sleep center to study and treat various disorders, he said.
The emergency room, which handles 17,000 patient visits a year, will be expanded, and the preliminary diagnosis and care of patients will be modernized to cut the amount of time patients wait, according to Schneider. Instead of getting pushed to the back of the line by patients with more severe problems, those with minor illnesses or injuries will be treated by a designated doctor or nurse practitioner in four new rooms.
"You'll be able to get through much, much quicker," Schneider said. "Our goal is to get people in and out of here in an hour."
The first floor of the expansion will be a new cancer center that will place side-by-side types of care that are now separated in the existing building. It will include 18 infusion bays, double the current total.
The second floor will accommodate orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurophysiology, an MRI center, and cardiology and radiology. The third floor will house a new spine- and pain-treatment center, along with more exam rooms for primary-care doctors.
When the expansion is complete, the existing building will be renovated to offer more space for a breast health center, among other specialties. The project will cost $50 million in all.
Lahey's growth is part of a health care boom on the North Shore.
Beverly Hospital, headed by Northeast Health System, the same parent firm that runs Gloucester's Addison Gilbert Hospital, recently opened a $30 million outpatient center in Danvers. Also, North Shore Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital are building a more-than-$100 million outpatient facility in Danvers, and Children's Hospital Boston plans to open a satellite facility in Peabody's Centennial Business Park by 2011.
Amid the competition, Dr. Carl Soderland, Lahey's medical director, said Lahey's affiliation with Tufts University School of Medicine and the inpatient care offered through its emergency room are assets.
He also touted the "Lahey brand," which he described as "a multispecialty group of physicians who practice together."
All the doctors are under the Lahey umbrella, not working for separate, private practices.
"The value is that you can walk down the hall and talk to the person next to you who is another specialist in some other field and get a curbside consult," Soderland said.
As part of its expansion, the clinic will add more than 25 doctors and 125 nurses, technical and clerical workers.
Matthew K. Roy may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lahey renovation and expansion
Cost: $50 million
Opening of new wing: June 2009
Square footage of wing: 65,000
New jobs: 25 doctors, 125 nurses and medical staff