Expansion Continues at UVa. Medical Center


May 12, 2014

Don't expect hospital projects at the University of Virginia to be finished anytime soon.

The UVa. Health System is putting the finishing touches on its new $117 million outpatient children's hospital. At 200,000 square feet, the Battle Building on West Main Street opens next month, adding about 100 new jobs.

All pediatric services, except hospital rooms, will be under one roof, and there'll be a new outpatient surgery center in the basement. CBS19 asked Chief Operating Officer Bo Cofield if the expansion at UVa. was done now that the Battle Building project is near completion.

"No... It is not," Cofield said. "I don't think it will ever be done."

This summer, the UVa. Medical Center plans to break ground on a building connecting the parking garage on Lee Street with the new Emily Couric Cancer Center. The facility will house classrooms and a new pharmacy.

Then, next summer, UVa. starts a $120 million plus expansion of the often crowded emergency department, doubling its size to about 80 beds, all private, including a psychiatric unit.

And the medical center isn't done there. In the next 5 or 6 years, it hopes to build up.

UVa. is planning a tower on top of the new emergency department, with new operating rooms, labs and patient rooms.

"This isn't about growing the number of beds," Cofield told CBS19. "This is about moving to an all private room model which is what our patients want and deserve."

Cofield says partly due to expansion, patient satisfaction scores at UVa. are the highest they've ever been.

The man probably most responsible for the transformation of the medical center is CEO Ed Howell. He is packing up his office, retiring on June 18th to teach at the university. Since 2002, Howell has shepherded $1.6 billion in capital improvement. Those improvements have made possible by patient revenues, leaving little to no debt on the health system books, including renovating and expanding the entire 1989 hospital.

"If we have outdated technology, if we have outdated facilities," Howell said. "We can't fulfill our educational mission nearly as well as we need to."

Howell hopes he has positioned the medical center for the next 10 to 20 years, post health reform, as the Baby Boomer generation retires and needs more health care.

"We're expecting about a 9 to 10% overall growth in our population, our market area," Howell said. "But the growth of those 65 and older is 39 percent."

What keeps Howell up at night? Long term, it's an acute shortage of doctors and nurses.

Short term, it's what would happen to the UVa. Medical Center if the General Assembly does not accept federal money to expand Medicaid to uninsured Virginians.

"If Medicaid isn't expanded we're gonna have the responsibility of treating those individuals without the resources to do it," Howell said.

Supplemental payments to hospitals like UVa. for Medicaid patients go away in 3 years.

The University of Virginia named a new CEO to succeed Howell last week. Pamela Sutton-Wallace joins the UVa. Medical Center from Duke in July.


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