West Sub planning new ER; could expand or build new

Hospital promises to include neighbors in talks

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West Suburban Medical Center continues to spend its way through the $73 million capital infusion it received following its purchase by Resurrection Health Care some 18 months ago. While some of the spending is now visible in ongoing tuck-pointing of the hospital's professional office building, or less visible in new high-tech equipment being installed, the shape of the hospital's largest project, a new emergency department, is now coming into focus.

Currently, said Jay Kreuzer, West Sub's CEO and a group vice president in the Resurrection system, the hospital has "architects talking to the village about village regulations" which might apply to the ER project. "We are at the early stages. But we have budgeted for a new ER," he said.

The most notable decision which needs to be made, he said, is whether the significantly larger ER, needed to serve a growing caseload, can be built within the hospital's current facility or whether to consider new construction on vacant hospital-owned land at Humphrey and Ontario.

The existing facility, which sits on the ground level at Austin and Ontario, was built to accommodate 35,000 visits per year. But the hospital now treats 50,000 patients a year in its ER. "It's crowded. There are privacy issues. We have curtains dividing treatment areas. These days you want walls," said Kreuzer.

It is possible that the hospital's ground floor could be reconfigured to allow the larger ER, he said. "You'd have to move things, but it could be done," he said.

Or the hospital could build new on the vacant parcel. Kreuzer said it is too soon to know the advantages and disadvantages of the two options.

Although neither Kreuzer nor most of his senior staff were at West Sub during its last?#34;and controversial?#34;building project, he said he's aware of past battles with neighbors and wants to avoid a repeat.

"When we built the Pavilion (professional office building) I'm very aware [of neighbor concern]. We will try to do the best we can. We will talk to the neighbors upfront. After we get with the village, we'll present options [to neighbors]."

Kreuzer predicted a first public meeting to look at the ER project would be this fall. "It will be a very inclusive meeting. We will probably lay out multiple options."

Neighbors of the hospital are already considering organizing into the Taylor-Humphrey Neighborhood Association. A planning meeting was scheduled for Tuesday evening after press time. A letter distributed last week to neighbors read, in part, "One of the reasons this association is being organized is so that we, as residents, can address the impending changes taking place at Resurrection/West Suburban Hospital and help avoid any negative changes in our property values and quality of life." Efforts to reach an organizer of the meeting were not successful.

Kreuzer said key issues that will shape the decisions include finding a space large enough to handle the current volume of patients, that is contiguous to needed hospital services such as radiology, and that is cost effective.

Whatever route West Sub takes, he said, the new ER will be the most expensive capital investment the hospital will make with the new Resurrection funding.

Any expansion of the ER will require a state certificate of need, said Kreuzer. He anticipates that planning, approval and construction will take at least three years.

Meanwhile, the hospital continues to work on other physical upgrades including:

? Cafeteria rebuilding featuring a grill-to-order bar, expanded deli, gourmet coffee and new seating areas;

? Cardiac catheterization laboratory expanded to five beds and including substantially upgraded imaging systems;

? Gastronenterology laboratory upgrade;

? Surface parking lot resurfacing with added visitor parking.

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