BY SARAH TOMPKINS
The first stages of planning have begun for building a new teaching hospital and trauma center in the region.
State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, secured about $3 million in the state budget last year to go toward architecture and engineering plans for the facility. He has been meeting with a local task force to talk about building a new hospital at Gary's South Gleason Park Golf Course, across the street from Indiana University Northwest's medical school.
"This will be a magnet in getting the best and brightest research doctors here," Brown said. "Even though the facility will be located in Gary, this is for all of Northwest Indiana."
The task force -- composed of about 20 community members from unions, the Gary City Council, the religious community and Methodist Hospitals -- hopes Methodist Hospitals will be the occupant of the new facility once it is built.
The cost of the new facility and trauma center is estimated to be about a $500 million, Brown said, with funding expected to come from the state and federal government. Brown has proposed replacing Gary's two lakefront riverboats with a land-based casino near the Borman Expressway to generate gaming tax revenue to build the hospital.
Brown said he would like to see the first construction shovel in the ground in 2011.
Pat Bankston, assistant dean and director of the IU Northwest's School of Medicine, said the facility would offer trauma and unique specialty care, in addition to helping the school's teaching program.
"Our intent for the long term, and we're not talking in the next few years, is to facilitate a residency program in Northwest Indiana at all of the hospitals, including the new hospital that may come about from this project," Bankston said.
IU's medical school is not in an exclusive agreement with Methodist Hospitals, Bankston said, and whether the school will be directly affiliated with the new facility -- the way the University of Chicago is with the University of Chicago Medical Center -- has not yet been discussed.
"We're an equal opportunity medical school willing to help with any hospital that is interested in moving forward and working with us to increase the quality care and participate in our teaching program," he said.
Bankston said the new hospital would offer specialty care that would complement, not compete with, other local hospitals, as well as treat underserved populations.
With a national shortage of doctors, Brown said a new teaching hospital also might help keep medical students in the area serving the community after they graduate.
"We should have a hospital where they can train," Brown said. "And then they have more of a reason to stay in the area."
Methodist Hospitals is committed to the project and to serving patients who need emergency trauma care, CEO Ian McFadden said.
"With support from our state and local leaders, and most importantly, the significant financial support that will be needed, this initiative will be a reality in the future," he said.