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Published: Wednesday, 3/24/2004

St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima unveils $130M expansion plans

An artist's rendering depicts the proposed renovation and expansion of St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima. An artist's rendering depicts the proposed renovation and expansion of St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima.
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LIMA, Ohio - St. Rita's Medical Center unveiled plans yesterday for a $130 million makeover that's been dubbed "The Medical Center of the Future."

The near-downtown hospital will expand its campus across six city blocks and build a nine-story tower that will feature extra-large patient and family suites. St. Rita's will increase its capacity from 300 beds to 400 and boost its staff of 2,850 by 300 to 500 by the time the project is completed in 2007.

"It's great to be able to bring this good news forward," said Jim Reber, chief executive officer.

The project has been in the planning stages for two years in response to an increasing demand for services in the nine-county area surrounding Lima. Plans have focused on making the hospital and all of its departments easier to access and more comfortable.

"We really thought long and hard about declaring this to be the medical center of the future," Mr. Reber said. "But we think you will have a substantially different experience here than in a traditional hospital setting."

Each floor of the tower will be dedicated to a specialty area, including orthopedics, heart, cancer, and neurology. Each will feature three separate family lounges and equipped kitchens that families can use. Spacious patient rooms will have Internet access, and patient information will be "all digital and wireless," Mr. Reber said.

Outpatient services, including pre-admission testing, lab work, and X-rays, will be centralized just off the main lobby for easier access.

While visitors to St. Rita's currently have to cross busy streets to reach the hospital, the new campus is designed to be self-contained, with expanded parking. The hospital has asked the city to close portions of High and Collett streets for the project.

Council President Matt Huffman

said he will recommend that city council work with St. Rita's on closing and widening streets in the area.

City officials were enthusiastic about the massive investment by what is already the largest employer in Lima.

Lima Mayor David Berger called the announcement very good news for the city.

"What we've seen over the last several years is that health care has been a real growth opportunity for our community," he said. "And I think what has become increasingly clear is that both of our hospitals are competing in the region very, very successfully so that they're really competing with Fort Wayne, Dayton, Columbus, and Toledo and succeeding at that."

In northwest Ohio, the project is second in scope only to Toledo Hospital's seven-year, $200 million rebuilding effort. Blanchard Valley Health Association is undergoing a $95 million construction project at its Findlay hospital, and earlier this month, St. Vincent's Mercy Medical Center in Toledo announced it would undergo a $90 million renovation and construction project.

Mr. Reber said St. Rita's will finance its project with tax-exempt bonds issued through its parent company, Cincinnati-based Catholic Health Care Partners. Mercy Health Partners, which owns St. Vincent's and four other hospitals in the Toledo area, also is a part of Catholic Health Care Partners.

Mr. Reber said that in the past five years, St. Rita's has seen a 40 percent increase in demand for services and has now run into a space crunch. The growth, he said, has been in nearly every department.

"We've seen a 22 percent growth in surgery. We've seen a 100 percent growth in neurosciences," he said. "We've seen about a 45 percent increase in oncology and cancer care. It's really spread across all disciplines."



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