Construction on Sonora Community Hospital's new building and medical center continues to inch toward a late spring or early summer opening.

Val Devitt, project coordinator with Adventist Health, the company that owns and operates the hospital, said the scheduled June or early July opening is about a month behind. Changes to new surgery equipment and the expansion of the number of beds has set back the schedule a bit.

About 100 workers are working on the four-story, 122,000-square-foot building on Greenley Road.

The 71-bed hospital with room for up to 91 beds will replace the old 50-bed hospital on South Forest Road.

Work began on the $44 million project early December 2000.

While walls are going up, workers are waiting for state building inspectors to give them the go-ahead to install windows. Interior work on the ground floor will be completed last.

New hospitals in California must meet stringent seismic requirements.

"Hospitals in California are about the toughest (to build)," said Jerry Newman, project superintendent with Hospital Building and Equipment Company.

Newman, who has built everything from business offices to sports stadiums around the world, said building a hospital in California is complicated. He said a full-time state inspector is at the hospital all the time and as many as five state inspectors can be on the job site at any one time.

State inspectors review all work during and after construction.

And before the hospital can open, it must pass three state inspections to assure it meets fire-safety requirements and that hospital staff members are properly trained, Newman said. Once the new hospital cleared to open, a company that specializes in moving hospitals will move patients and equipment from the old building over a 24-hour period.

The hospital is adjacent to a new 44,000-square-foot medical office building. The separate building will house 17 physicians' offices with room for more, a pharmacy, cancer treatment center and education center.