Rendering courtesy Richmond Times-Dispatch
Even a deep recession can’t deter major hospital corporations from growing. HCA Inc. is moving forward with plans to build a 97-bed, $183 million hospital on a 60-acre site at the West Creek office park in eastern Goochland County.
The facility, scheduled to open in 2012, relocates unused beds at HCA’s Retreat Hospital in Richmond. State health officials required HCA to eliminate 122 beds at Retreat to gain approval for its plans to create West Creek Medical Center at the West Creek Business Park at Route 6 and Route 288. “To us it’s just a very logical, smart choice to take the beds that are underutilized there and move them out to serve the community,” says Karen Nelson, HCA’s executive director for marketing.
This follows a national trend of moving health services closer to patients. “A great example would be [HCA’s] Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center,” set to open in 2010 outside of Fredericksburg, Nelson says. Spotsylvania is the one of Virginia’s fastest-growing counties.
Dr. Gloria Bazzoli, professor of health administration at Virginia Commonwealth University, says hospital companies want to relocate their capacity to be close to “those people with good employment and good health insurance.”
Another suburban hospital expansion is under way at St. Francis Medical Center, owned by Bon Secours Richmond, in Chesterfield County. Plans call for construction of two additional floors to accommodate 54 more beds, including 16 for obstetrics.
Not all hospital construction is taking place in the suburbs. VCU Medical Center opened its $184 million critical-care hospital in October. The 15-level, 367,000-square-foot center includes intensive-care units for surgical-trauma, neonatal, burn-center, cardiac, neuroscience, medical respiratory and oncology patients.
Despite the expansions, regional health-care providers are feeling the effects of the souring economy. “The reality is health care is not recession-proof,” Nelson says. “Those folks losing jobs are also losing health insurance.” This means hospitals will be “caring for more folks who are uninsured and unable to pay.”
Another ripple effect could be fewer elective procedures, such as plastic surgery. “Even if they have insurance,” Bazzoli says, “the things people pay for out of pocket will be hit first.”
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