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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2008

Mercy may build $73M specialty hospital in Monclova Township

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Enticed by population growth in western Lucas County and beyond, several groups of doctors and Mercy Health Partners may construct an estimated $73 million specialty hospital and medical office building in Monclova Township - and essentially in the backyard of St. Luke's Hospital.

Toledo neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Dull said he and other doctors have noticed a growing number of patients who were traveling long distances to their practices near St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center and, to be closer to them, wanted to build a medical office building with space for outpatient surgery.

"The physicians have really driven this project in large part," Dr. Dull said.

He added of patients: "It made a lot of sense for us to move at least a part of our practices their way."

After approaching Mercy several months ago, the idea of constructing the medical office building along with a small inpatient hospital for short-stay surgeries, emergencies, and radiological testing was conceived, Dr. Dull said.

The hospital would have 34 beds, an emergency room, and a helipad. Critical patients would be transferred to St. Vincent, said Scott Shook, Mercy's senior vice president of strategic initiatives.

Under the proposal, Mercy would own the 28-acre site at the northeast corner of Maumee-Western and Strayer roads, which is to be considered for rezoning Tuesday by the Monclova Township trustees. The medical office building would be owned by doctors, and the for-profit hospital would be a joint venture between doctors and Mercy, Mr. Shook said.

If rezoning is granted, the plan needs to be approved by boards of Mercy Health Partners and its Cincinnati parent company, Catholic Healthcare Partners, Mr. Shook said. Agreements also need to be reached with doctors, he said.

If all approvals and agreements are reached, construction could begin as early as August, with the medical office building taking at least a year to complete and the hospital at least 20 months, Mr. Shook said.

Mercy had approached St. Luke's about being an equity partner in the joint venture, but the Maumee hospital's board declined, said Jack Bartell, St. Luke president and chief executive.

St. Luke's officials felt having such a facility so near its hospital would duplicate services and help drive up health-care costs, which would hinder economic development, Mr. Bartell said. The proposed hospital is about two miles from St. Luke's, and some local residents are complaining about increased traffic and noise from helicopter services, he said.

Still, St. Luke's - which is located off of I-475 - is ready for such a development, Mr. Bartell said.

"We're not afraid of competition," Mr. Bartell said. "We will compete on accessibility, on the way our people treat patients, and our quality indicators."

Yet Dr. Dull said that, while health-care costs may initially increase, the competition ultimately will help decrease them while improving quality. Another unique aspect of the proposed joint-venture hospital is that doctors will be able to better weigh in on its design and operation, he said.

This is not the first specialty hospital project proposed for St. Luke's home turf.

In 2003, ProMedica Health System proposed building a $75 million surgical hospital in Maumee with 35 patient beds. ProMedica owns property in Arrowhead Park, less than a mile from where the joint venture among Mercy and the doctors is proposed.

ProMedica has no immediate plans for either a Maumee surgical hospital or the Arrowhead Park land, but it is continuing to evaluate development, according to a ProMedica spokesman.

A Mercy spokesman said the proposed Monclova Township hospital would be similar to Mercy Hospital of Defiance, a 23-bed joint venture between Defiance Clinic and St. Vincent.

Specialty hospital projects, some with doctors as sole owners and some that are joint ventures with community hospitals, recently have cropped up in Dayton, Newark, Akron, and Springfield, said Tiffany Himmelreich, spokesman for the Ohio Hospital Association.

Having ownership in specialty hospitals gives doctors another source of revenue as they grapple with lowered reimbursement rates, Ms. Himmelreich said.

"This is certainly something we're seeing across the state and the nation," she said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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