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Published: Tuesday, 1/6/2004

Toledo Hospital confirms heart plan

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Hospital s upcoming renovations will include the construction of a “heart hospital” to allow the facility to expand its lucrative cardiac care service, hospital officials confirmed yesterday.

But they might have company.

Northwest Ohio Cardiology Consultants, the region s largest cardiology group, is in active discussions with all four of Toledo s major health-care providers to create a heart center or heart hospital, according to cardiologist Gopi Upamaka, a member of the group.

His group is looking to work primarily with just one hospital system, potentially making it a formidable rival in the heart-care market.

Expanding or improving heart care might financially help ProMedica Health System, parent company of Toledo Hospital. Heart procedures are one of the most lucrative portions of a hospital s business. And there s plenty of business given that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans.

Toledo Hospital is proposing a “hospital within a hospital” like the existing Toledo Children s Hospital, according to Toledo Hospital President Barbara Steele. She said the multistory addition will be built on the southeast portion of the main hospital campus along Oatis Avenue, near the former location of the emergency department.

Ms. Steele said the heart facility has been planned since before ProMedica Health System, which owns Toledo Hospital, announced the renovation of Toledo Hospital in October, 2001. The heart hospital will be part of that renovation.

However, the first public confirmation that a heart hospital was included in the renovation came in Sunday s Blade when ProMedica took out a full-page color advertisement about the project.

Dr. Upamaka, who s also chief-of-staff elect at Toledo Hospital, said he and many of his colleagues were “surprised” by the ad because they d never been told a heart hospital was part of the renovation.

He said his 25-member cardiology group is talking with all the major players, including ProMedica and Mercy Health Partners, about a possible heart center. He said the goal is to incorporate state-of-the art care, as well as education and research, into such a center.

Construction of the Toledo Hospital heart facility, which will include new and renovated areas, will begin in early 2005. Ms. Steele provided few other details, such as the cost or size of the heart hospital. The entire Toledo Hospital renovation is expected to cost $200 million and be completed in 2007.

Dr. Lee Hammerling, chief medical officer for ProMedica, said the goal of the heart hospital is not necessarily to add new services, but to expand capacity and make delivery of existing services more centralized and streamlined.

Expanding heart care has been a major focus both locally and nationwide.

For example, St. Luke s Hospital opened a heart center in 2001, which allowed it to do more complex heart cases. Also in 2001, a group of 25 local heart specialists opened an outpatient heart catheterization facility on the campus of St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. In the last several years, some local cardiologists have looked into opening their own heart hospital, but that venture never got off the ground.

Mercy officials don t know if they d consider building a heart hospital, said Sarah Bednarski, a spokesman for Mercy Health Partners, ProMedica s largest rival.

Though the renovation of Toledo Hospital is ProMedica s biggest announced project, it filed notice in September with the Ohio Department of Health that it might build up to four specialty hospitals. Those include a $75 million Arrowhead Medical Center in Maumee, a $50 million surgical hospital in Toledo, and a $9 million surgical hospital in Toledo. ProMedica also filed plans for a $70 million, 30-bed heart hospital in Toledo that s different than the one just announced.

Ms. Steele said all those plans filed in September may never happen and were just an attempt by ProMedica to beat a proposed state deadline that would have banned new, for-profit specialty hospitals.



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