A new, expanded medical center is expected to create 15 construction jobs and seven more full-time health-care jobs, Somerset Hospital leaders said here Friday during groundbreaking ceremonies.

“Somerset Hospital is pleased to provide this new facility to serve the people of Berlin and southern Somerset County,” hospital Chief Executive Officer Michael Farrell said Friday outside the Berlin Area Medical Center, 426 Main St.

The new 6,200-square-foot building will soon go up behind the current building, which will continue to serve patients during construction, Farrell said. Offices are expected to open in the new facility in about 10 months.

In addition to Dr. Ken VanAntwerp’s family practice and Dr. Ajay Singh’s pediatrics offices, the building will offer physical therapy rehabilitation and laboratory services.

 There will be an estimated six-week period near the end of construction when patients will have to travel to Somerset for appointments, Farrell said.

Construction will begin as soon as all necessary permits are in place, Farrell said, adding that demolition of the existing building will begin in about nine months.

Somerset Hospital first opened the community physicians’ office in the former Highland Mutual Insurance Co. headquarters in the mid-1990s, following Highland’s liquidation. The insurance company had moved into the former shoe store and private residence after expanding it in 1977.

The new Berlin Area Medical Center will include six exam rooms, a large waiting area and complete physical therapy suite.

Although cost was not discussed Friday, Farrell previously told The Tribune-Democrat the hospital budgeted $1.2 million for Berlin’s expansion.

Somerset County Commissioner Pam Tokar-Ickes welcomed the project.

“As we all know, access to health care in rural areas is critical,” Tokar-Ickes said. “We are very, very fortunate to have the commitment of Somerset Hospital to extend its reach into the community beyond its main campus in Somerset. It is very important to Somerset County’s quality of life.”

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