Hospitals expand in urban core

Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 By: Sarah Terry-Cobo Source: The Journal Record

Uncertainty surrounding the health care industry doesn’t keep Di Smalley awake at night. Lack of labor supply does.

Mercy is expanding to meet growing demand, but there’s still a need for more doctors, nurses and other health care providers to treat people. The Missouri-based hospital system is among several that are building new hospitals in the metro. Smalley, regional west communities president, and other Mercy executives attended a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for the system’s newest hospital, which will adjoin the Oklahoma Heart Hospital South campus once it’s completed.

Though Mercy owns 17 hospitals around the state and covers a wide area, there wasn’t enough coverage in the metro, she said. Chief Administrative Officer David Whitaker said Mercy owns all of its hospitals and the majority of hospital staff members are employees, which creates efficiency within the business.

That so-called integrated model helps reduce the risk for Mercy-owned hospitals in rural areas. Dozens of Oklahoma rural hospitals are struggling to keep the doors open, as reimbursement rates from the state and federal governments have declined in recent years.

Mercy is building a $150 million, six-story hospital tower. The 228,000-square-foot building will have 72 inpatient beds and about seven intensive care unit beds. Surgery, X-ray, CT and MRI scan services will be offered, in addition to cancer treatment. There will be a pharmacy, and shell space will be available for expansion.

Whitaker said since the Mercy hospital will be physically connected to the Oklahoma Heart Hospital, the two will share some services, such as building maintenance, as well as some staff members. That will increase efficiency and save money. Mercy and the Heart Hospital will each pay a portion of the $150 million construction and equipment-purchasing costs. It’s too soon to determine who will pay how much; that ratio will be determined when the project is done, Whitaker said.

It will take about nine years to earn a return on the investment, he said.

The project has been in the planning stages for years. Growing population and Oklahomans with poor health increase the demand for hospital services in that area, Whitaker said. Because the Oklahoma Heart Hospital’s emergency department staff must treat any patient who walks through the door, each person who is admitted without a heart-related condition takes resources away from the cardiac-specialty-trained staff.

Mercy isn’t the only hospital chain that’s growing. Integris is building a microhospital in Moore, as part of an agreement announced last fall. The hospital system will hold a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday. OU Medical Systems announced this year it would build a new tower onto its main hospital building.

Whitaker said Mercy can compete with other hospital systems by providing health care services directly

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