Janesville72°

Residents pose questions about new hospital

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JAMES P. LEUTE
October 2, 2008
— As president of the company that plans to build a new hospital in Janesville, Mary Starmann-Harrison expected tougher questions.

Won’t the $140 million hospital and physician office complex duplicate services already available in Janesville?


Won’t the massive price tag drive up local health care costs?


Doesn’t a summer full of bad news alter the long-term prognosis for such a project in Janesville?


Starmann-Harrison got none of the above Wednesday at a community meeting sponsored by SSM Health Care of Wisconsin and Dean Health System, the two health care providers that are teaming up on the project near the intersection of Interstate 90/39 and Highway 11.


Instead, she and Dean surgeon Mark McDade received welcomes, thanks and a question of “where and when can I apply for a job.”


About 70 people attended Wednesday’s session. Despite a debate about the project that’s simmered for months, the crowd was clearly in support of the project.


The only comment that wasn’t glowing was a question about whether local union trades people would be involved in the projects, which are scheduled for completion in late 2010.


Wherever possible, but only when it makes sense from a quality and financial perspective, said Starmann-Harrison of SSM Health Care.


“In my own personal opinion, you will be wildly successful, and you are very much needed,” said one man whose comment was met with applause.


Since announcing in April plans for the $80 million hospital and $60 million physician office complex, Starmann-Harris has closely followed the debate that’s essentially boiled down to one between the SSM/Dean supporters and those in the camp of Mercy Health System, which has a 275-bed hospital and numerous clinics in Janesville.


She said SSM has studied the market extensively and determined that the majority of Janesville residents want choice and competition in the local health care market.


“I thought there would be harder questions,” Starmann-Harris said after the meeting. “We were prepared for it and had the information available. You’re always better off being as upfront as possible.”


But those questions didn’t materialize Wednesday. The ones that did involved:


-- City bus service to the new facility, which SSM/Dean will investigate.


-- The current Dean Riverview Clinic, which eventually will move to the new physician complex. Dean will investigate ways to continue serving its west- and south-side patients.


-- Dean’s Northview Clinic at 2540 Humes Road, Janesville, and its clinic in Milton. McDade said Northview’s future is yet to be determined, and it’s possible the Milton site could stay open and even expand.


-- A helipad that’s planned for the new hospital.


-- When SSM will begin hiring 300-plus new employees for the hospital and when Dean will be looking for new physicians and support staff. That probably won’t happen for a year, and updates will be posted on the project’s Web site www.newjanesvillehospital.com.



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