Janesville50°

SSM delays plans for Janesville

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JAMES P. LEUTE
February 18, 2009
— Unfavorable credit markets will delay but not destroy plans for a $140 million hospital and physicians complex in Janesville.

Officials of SSM Health Care of Wisconsin and Dean Health System said Tuesday the new complex on Janesville’s east side likely will not open until 2011, up to a year later than initially planned.


“We remain fully committed to build St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital,” said Mary Starmann-Harrison, SSM’s president. “However, we find ourselves in an unprecedented economic time that is affecting new construction in all sectors, including hospital projects across the country.


“We will go forward with this project, but the timing has to be that it makes sense.”


Starmann-Harrison said the delay is strictly tied to the system’s ability to obtain financing at favorable interest rates. SSM is including the Janesville project with other SSM projects in one larger bond issue.


Last April, SSM and Dean announced plans for the $80 million hospital and $60 million physician office complex near the intersection of Interstate 90/39 and Highway 11. The project is expected to provide 344 direct and 155 indirect jobs and have a $164 million annual economic impact.


Two months later, General Motors announced that it would end SUV production in Janesville, but hospital and clinic officials have remained steadfast in their commitment to the Janesville project.


“The need for a new hospital and medical complex in Janesville remains as strong as ever,” said Craig Samitt, president of Dean Health System. “We will continue to finalize our plans and meet with the community and will be poised to aggressively begin construction once the economy becomes more favorable.”


Samitt and Starmann-Harrison have said surveys indicated the community demanded choice and competition in the local health care market and drove the decision to build the new hospital and a doctors’ office complex.


Mercy Health System has a hospital and numerous clinics in Janesville.


Starmann-Harrison is well aware that Janesville has been ravaged by job losses that go well beyond the auto industry.


She’s also aware that some residents will blame the delay on cold feet and jump to the conclusion that SSM and Dean will never build in Janesville.


“That would be absolutely wrong,” she said. “The St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital remains the top priority for SSM Health Care.


“This is not a local, Janesville economic issue. It is simply a national economic issue: The credit markets are not at all favorable for hospital projects.”


In the interim, progress is being made, she said. A site plan and the design of the facility are complete, and Kerry Swanson has been hired as president of the new hospital.


Officials broke ground for the project in November, but no other site work has taken place since.



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