BY SUSAN ERLER
Methodist Hospitals plans to announce a partnership today with Indiana University Northwest that could assist in creating a long-discussed teaching hospital near the university's Gary campus.
In the partnership, a task force led by Methodist Hospitals, the university and city and state leaders will explore the concept of building a teaching hospital, including a study of the feasibility of such a project, hospital officials said.
The formation of the partnership "is just the first step in figuring out whether and how to build a hospital," said Patrick Bankston, assistant dean and director of the medical school at the IUN campus.
The task force could help determine the economic impact of such a hospital and help devise a business plan to support it, among other things, Bankston said.
"All of this needs to be known before we can make any plans," Bankston said.
Talk of a teaching hospital associated with the medical school at the IUN campus surfaced several years ago, and the possibility has the backing of state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary.
"This is an ongoing effort," Brown said, and could work in conjunction with the IUN medical school's plan to expand to a four-year program by 2010.
A group that has been meeting to discuss the possibility "thought why not look at building a hospital right adjacent to the campus," Brown said.
The $300 million projected cost of a new hospital has potential to qualify for economic stimulus funding, Brown said.
"Why wouldn't a brand new hospital that would stimulate the local economy be a potential candidate," Brown said.
Brown said his hope is the hospital would house a section devoted to caring for military veterans.
A new hospital also could be designed to attract doctors in specialty areas not already available in Northwest Indiana, Bankston said.
Patrick Bankston, assistant dean and director of the medical school at the IUN campus, said a new hospital also could be designed to attract doctors in specialty areas not already available in Northwest Indiana.