NWI health care construction remains robust - February 1, 2015

Courtesy of NWI Times

February 01, 2015 12:00 am • Giles Bruce (219) 853-2584, giles.bruce@nwi.com

Despite upheaval in the health care industry caused in part by federal reform, medical construction in Northwest Indiana is still going strong.

Local hospital systems continue to invest in infrastructure even as inpatient stays nationwide are on the decline.

“The hospital industry has stayed steady throughout the last few years,” William Hasse III, president of Calumet City-based Hasse Construction Co., said at the recent Times Board of Economists meeting. “We didn’t really expect to see much expansion on construction in that market. But even though Obamacare’s come in, hospitals have done better than they’ve expected and they continue to have demand for space.”

Hasse cited such projects as the expansions of St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart and Franciscan Healthcare in Munster. At St. Mary, the $40 million, 113,000-square-foot project will include a new surgical pavilion and 20-bed intensive care unit. In Munster, the roughly $70 million Franciscan expansion is creating a medical center campus equipped with more user-friendly patient rooms, a full-service emergency room and hospital chapel.

Also in Munster, Community Hospital continues to complete a multiyear construction project that began with the $34 million Parkview Tower that opened last July and continued with a $1 million cardiovascular unit and $1 million neuroscience ICU that both opened recently.

Currently ongoing at Community is a $5 million to $6 million surgical expansion and remodel. Next up, the hospital will move its pediatrics unit into the new tower so labor and delivery and the neonatal ICU are all in the same place. A joint and spine academy will then move into the former pediatrics unit. Those last two projects will cost about $1 million each.

“We continue to modernize and expand as we have strong utilization of our services, and we want to provide a first-class facility for the people who come here,” said Community Hospital CEO Don Fesko, noting that, despite industry trends, the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient volumes both continue to grow.

In East Chicago, St. Catherine Hospital is expanding its behavioral health offerings by adding a 12-bed psychiatric unit for seniors and an intensive outpatient program. The two projects, which will cost a total of $2.5 million, are expected to be completed by July 1.

“Our behavioral health services are really expanding and growing,” said Craig Bolda, chief operating officer of St. Catherine Hospital.

Methodist Hospitals recently finished a $2.5 million project to build orthopedic spine centers at its Southlake Campus in Merrillville and Midlake Campus in Gary, and will soon begin a $10 million facelift on its Northlake Campus in Gary that will include an emergency-room renovation, a new 12-bed intensive care unit and a new surgical/trauma ICU.

Other local health-care construction includes improvements to the emergency, laboratory and surgical units at Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer; the construction of an ER at Porter Health Care System’s Valparaiso Medical Center; and a three-bed expansion at the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Porter’s Portage Hospital.

Gene Diamond, regional CEO for Franciscan Alliance, said at the recent Times Board of Economists meeting that he’s also been surprised by all the recent construction activity in health care, though he added a caveat.

“We think you’re not likely to see as much large hospital construction as you have in the past,” he said. “We do think that we have to be more accessible to the folks we serve. We’ll continue to build smaller facilities in the neighborhood close to our consumers. We think that’s going to continue for a while.”