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St. Joe’s expansion is ‘latest and greatest,’ NY health commissioner says

By Journal Staff


SYRACUSE  —  A new expansion at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center will incorporate recent advances in hospital design, according to the commissioner of the New York State Department of Health.

“What they’re building here takes advantage of all the latest and greatest finds of how to build smartly in a health-care setting,” says Dr. Nirav Shah, the state Department of Health’s commissioner. “This is an example of understanding what the community needs.”

Shah was in Syracuse April 20 for a groundbreaking ceremony at the corner of East Laurel Street and Prospect Avenue that launched a new phase of construction at St. Joseph’s, the city’s second-largest hospital by number of beds. The new effort will add 181,100 square feet of space to the hospital’s facilities and carries a price tag of $140 million.

The project will add operating rooms, a perianesthesia care unit, intensive-care units, private patient rooms, family waiting areas, and a central sterile unit, which is the area of the hospital that sterilizes and distributes equipment.

The expansion’s surgical suite will have 14 operating rooms, two more than the hospital’s current suite. Its perianesthesia care unit will offer 25 patient beds, up from 16 in the hospital’s current facilities. It will be able to handle 14,000 patients per year, up from 10,500.

The project will add 72 private patient rooms that are slated to take the place of 36 semi-private rooms the hospital currently uses. And the expansion will have 38 private rooms in its medical and surgical intensive-care units.

“When you have rooms with more than one patient, infections and many other issues are out there,” Shah says. “When you build new infrastructure such as this, it can transform the safety of care that’s delivered. That kind of knowledge has evolved over the years in hospital construction.”

The new expansion is the final piece of a multiyear project. St. Joseph’s completed work in 2008 on the project’s first phase, a $45 million undertaking that included a new parking garage, a medical office building, a pedestrian bridge, and a new lobby.

Earlier this year, the hospital wrapped up another portion of the project, finishing a 140,000-square-foot emergency services building that included an emergency department, psychiatric emergency unit, and data center. That expansion phase cost 

$80 million, and the new emergency department opened Feb. 1.

The emergency-services building is driving the hospital to complete the final 181,100-square-foot expansion as soon as possible, St. Joseph’s President and CEO Kathryn Ruscitto says.

“Since we’ve opened our emergency room, we’ve just seen a tremendous increase in business,” she says. “This project is a tremendous companion to that. The sooner we can get it done, the better.”

The emergency department has seen 15 percent more patients so far in 2012 than it saw to the same point last year, according to the hospital. It is on pace to receive 65,000 to 70,000 visits in 2012.

Ruscitto wants the newly started construction, which is officially slated for completion in 2014, to be finished 14 to 18 months from now, she says. Hayner Hoyt Corp. of Syracuse is the project’s general contractor, and King + King Architects, LLP of Syracuse designed it.

The final phase of work will also add green space and lighting to the north end of the St. Joseph’s campus. Designs call for a greenway connection to North Side businesses.

“We’re actually going to have a patient park that connects to the community,” Ruscitto says. “We’re going to build staircases that go down on the side of the campus that faces the restaurants. Our goal is that this be a very vibrant area.”

St. Joseph’s is financing the multiyear expansion using $177 million in bonding from Onondaga County, along with financing from hospital fundraising and cash reserves. It is also using a $2.5 million economic-development grant from New York State’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative.

The project has numerous economic-development benefits, according to Kenneth Adams, president, CEO, and commissioner of Empire State Development, who also attended the groundbreaking on April 20.

“Looking at health care across the state, there are not many facilities that have this [level of] expansion,” he says. “As they develop new capacity, they compete and gain the capacity to attract leading physicians.”

St. Joseph’s estimates that the final expansion will require it to add 150 new health-care positions. Construction will require 400 new long-term construction jobs, according to the hospital.

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center is a nonprofit affiliated with Franciscan Companies and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis. It is a 431-bed hospital and health-care system that serves Onondaga County and 15 surrounding counties. It generated $525 million in revenue in 2011, a year in which it had 26,317 inpatient visits, 52,285 emergency-department visits, and over 606,000 outpatient encounters.

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