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Plans now call for $225 million medical center.

Byline: Joe Harwood The Register-Guard

The cost of the new hospital McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center wants to build somewhere in Eugene has almost tripled, to $225 million from the initial $80 million estimated 2 1/2 years ago, new filings with the state show.

The steep price hike has little to do with inflation or the ongoing run-up in construction materials, and everything to do with building a facility that can compete better with larger rival PeaceHealth, hospital officials said.

"We think $225 million is what it would take to build Eugene the hospital it deserves, and a hospital that will meet its needs over the next 50 years," McKenzie-Willamette spokeswoman Rosie Pryor said.

In documents recently submitted to state health care regulators, McKenzie-Willamette and its majority owner, Triad Hospitals Inc. of Plano, Texas, are proposing a seven-story structure totaling 433,680 square feet.

That's a huge increase from the approximately 250,000-square-foot, five-story building hospital officials rolled out for public inspection in May 2004.

The proposed expanded hospital, designed to accommodate the physical limitations of Triad's preferred site at the Eugene Water & Electric Board - sandwiched between a highway overpass and the Willamette River - goes up instead of out. The design includes a seventh floor shell that can be improved to house an additional 50 beds when patient demand increases in future years.

The proposal makes room for 148 beds, an expanded emergency room and an extended range of services that McKenzie-Willamette never envisioned back in 2003, Pryor said. "The initial conversations we had contemplated replacing exactly what we have today" at McKenzie-Willamette hospital in Springfield, she said.

The 50-year-old facility in Springfield, which measures 380,000 square feet, now has a licensed capacity of 114 beds, and plans are in the works to add 20 new beds by next year to support McKenzie-Willamette's entry into a cardiac program that will include open heart surgery to complement the cardiac catheterization lab completed earlier this year.

McKenzie-Willamette began looking to move into Eugene as PeaceHealth officials pressed to build a new hospital in Gateway and move many services there from PeaceHealth's Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene.

When Triad officials decided to build the new facility in Eugene to try to capture a chunk of PeaceHealth's market share and serve a larger population, the replacement building grew, Pryor said.

"The prospect of moving to Eugene, the cost of the EWEB site, the impact of a larger population surrounding the hospital and the portfolio of services we'll have when we make the move all are factors in the larger facility," Pryor said.

When PeaceHealth completes the $350 million regional medical center it is building in north Springfield in 2008, it plans to move the bulk of its Hilyard campus operations to the new facility.

However, once operations move to RiverBend, the nonprofit health corporation does intend to pursue a $24 million renovation that will leave a 104-bed hospital with an emergency department at the Hilyard campus.

Although several factors are conspiring to make the 22-acre EWEB site an increasingly unlikely home for the new hospital, Triad officials submitted the plans to the state anyway.

"If we wind up not building at EWEB and end up with (a location) more suburban, we might have to revisit our design," Pryor said.

Triad filed the documents with the state in order to secure approval for a Eugene facility.
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Title Annotation:Health; McKenzie-Willamette thinks big - seven stories big - in a competitive environment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 17, 2005
Words:562
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