2010 Hospital of the Year-Primary Care: Home on the waterfront
A few roadblocks and one near-catastrophe stood between Dr. Mark Honaker and his dream practice. But persistence paid off, and Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital in Virginia Beach, Va., functions as his home away from home.
Late one night Dr. Mark Honaker received the phone call every veterinary practice owner dreads. "There's been a fire," the voice on the other end said.
His heart began to race. His brand-new facility was barely halfway complete, and it now appeared he might have to start over. Would Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital's new facility remain just a dream?
As Dr. Honaker began to process the information, he realized the incident was little more than a close call. The building next door had caught fire, and although emergency crews couldn't immediately tell him if his building had sustained any damage, Dr. Honaker later discovered that it was fine. Good thing, too, because staying in the old facility seemed like a nightmare.
"WE OUTGREW THE BUILDING"
When Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital came up for sale in late 1998, Dr. Honaker knew it would be a good fit for him. After practicing emergency medicine for 17 years, he'd decided he was too old to stay awake for 24 hours at a time. Located near an offshoot of the Lynnhaven Bay, just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the practice was situated in an ideal spot with great visibility from the road.
A look at the numbers
But while 1,800 square feet seemed like adequate space at the time, Dr. Honaker quickly learned otherwise. As the practice grew and Dr. Honaker hired more employees, the hallways seemed to get a little tighter, the ceilings a little lower. "We got to a point where we either needed to sell the practice or build a new facility," Dr. Honaker says. "When you have 10 or 15 people crammed into a small space, you tend to get on each other's nerves every once in a while."
TWISTS AND TURNS
Not ready to retire, Dr. Honaker decided it was time to build. His plans called for a 6,400-square-foot facility that looked less like a veterinary practice and more like a beach home, complete with a spacious front porch, wicker furniture, and large windows that would admit abundant natural light. Though the way forward seemed obvious, the road to complete the project wasn't exactly smooth.
The practice's location near the water provided the first set of headaches. To please the local zoning variance board, Dr. Honaker commissioned an engineering firm to conduct a soil analysis and topographic survey. About a year later, he finally secured the building permit and began construction on the new facility.
The roadblocks didn't end there. Another variance was required to work around new water main restrictions. The building's footprint was off by a mere six inches—a deceptively small number that required building crews to make a very major modification. After tearing off an entire room and replacing it with a temporary structure, the team looked forward to smooth progress from there. Then workers found asbestos in an old building that needed to be torn down to make room for the hospital's parking lot. A thorough cleaning and follow-up inspection solved that problem.
HAPPINESS ALL AROUND
Through it all, Dr. Honaker never lost his enthusiasm. "I actually kind of enjoyed the building process," he says. "My general contractor handled most of the headaches, and we eventually overcame all of those issues. So far everything has worked out really well."
That goes for the practice's revenue, too. According to Dr. Honaker, startup costs have leveled off, and January 2010 revenue was up 25 percent from January 2009. In fact, even after deciding to take steps to become a 24-hour practice this year, Dr. Honaker has regulated his crazy schedule. "I've gotten to the point where I can start taking more time off," he says.
After finding design inspiration over the years in the pages of Veterinary Economics, Dr. Honaker couldn't be more pleased with the new Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital. "I'm tickled to death," he says. "Aesthetically, it turned out really nicely and the traffic flow works great."