Ohio State announced Wednesday it is seeking design requests to build a new hospital tower that would be the largest single facilities project in university history.
The hospital tower would add up to 840 private-room beds to the Wexner Medical Center and allow for the phasing out, or repurposing, of 440 beds in the aging Rhodes and Doan halls, which university officials said is necessary for the center to continue its national prominence.
Along with the tower, Ohio State is also fielding design requests for an ambulatory center, which emphasizes outpatient care.
“We have this vision in our strategic plan to be a top-20 academic medical center and I’m fully believing that we have the ability to accomplish that,” said Dr. Craig Kent, dean of the College of Medicine. “If we’re going to be successful, we have to have the facilities that allow that success.”
There are no specifics regarding a timeline or cost estimates, but University President Michael Drake said he hopes the hospital tower could be completed by 2025. For the ambulatory center, Drake said in “three-ish years from now we would think to have some things up and running.”
The proposal period alone, Drake said, will be a “multi-month process to get the right design.”
The two new medical facilities add to the three health-science related projects for which the university is already seeking proposals. In total, Drake said the five projects will cost at least $2 billion. Drake said financing will come through “normal means,” including bonds, philanthropy, and “operating efficiently and effectively.”
“Everyone knows how much hospitals cost and so if we look at these projects and include the laboratory space that were planning on putting in, I think that’s the minimum we would be looking at over the next seven years,” Drake said.
Exact locations for the hospital tower and the ambulatory center “are not set in stone,” Drake said, but there are general ideas. The tower would likely occupy at least part of the 12 acres freed up by the Cannon Drive relocation project, putting it near the epicenter of the university’s sprawling medical campus.
The ambulatory center will be on West Campus, no further east than Kenny Road and north of Carmack Road. The Carmack parking lots would serve as its western-most boundary.
Despite the resignation of two top executives and the departure of a leading researcher since May, the medical center has flourished in the past decade. The center is coming off its most successful fiscal year and Kent said it saw a 20 percent increase in funding from the National Institute of Health, which can be used as a metric to measure innovation.
The two projects announced Wednesday not only allow the medical center to continue on its current course, but to be prepared for the inevitable evolutions in medicine, said Wexner Medical Center Chief Operating Officer David McQuaid.
“It’s just critically important as we look to the next 50, 60, 100 years in medicine that we have the facilities to take care of the patients in the communities that we serve,” he said.
The tower would hold up to 840 beds — the medical center currently has around 1,400 — all of which would be in “private-room settings to elevate patient-centered care,” a university release said. It also will have 60 neonatal intensive care unit bassinets, an emergency department and operating rooms.
The ambulatory center will have outpatient operating rooms, urgent care, a pre-anesthesia center and interventional radiology, among other services.
While there is a trend nationally at non-academic medical centers toward outpatient care, Drake said the addition of the hospital tower will allow Ohio State to improve its impatient care.
“The patients who are in the hospital today, in the future many of those patients will be able to be treated out of the hospital,” Drake said, “but there are actually patients for whom we don’t have good treatments today, people we can’t even help today who we will be able to help with new things that we develop that will take place in the hospital in the future.
“So the population changes and the severity of the diseases change as we move forward and we’ll do our best to meet that challenge.”
Along with the design requests, Ohio State is amid a national search to replace its top two departed executives, Dr. Sheldon Retchin, who stepped down as medical center CEO after receiving criticism from top doctors and researchers, and Dr. Michael Caligiuri, who previously led the James Cancer Center and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
Drake said the timing of the search for the new executives, in particular the newly created chancellor position, which will oversee the entire health sciences operation, “works out very nicely.”
“One great thing that that person will be able to do is help guide the completion of these projects forward. In fact the projects will make this one of the most attractive jobs in health sciences any place in the world,” Drake said.