Janesville78.7°

Mercy: Expansion plan not solely competitive

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JAMES P. LEUTE
July 7, 2011
— Mercy Health System’s plans for an emergency department on the northeast side stem from capacity issues at Mercy’s hospital, not from the planned opening of a competing hospital early next year, Javon Bea said Wednesday.

Bea, president and CEO, said Mercy Hospital & Trauma Center has 16 patient rooms in its emergency department. Because the facility is a Level II trauma center, it receives severe cases that tie up rooms for hours.


“That whittles down the number of rooms we have available,” he said.


Nearly two weeks ago, Mercy announced it will build a $6 million emergency department and clinic on 24 acres it bought in 1999 on Deerfield Drive, just north of what today is Home Depot.


In making the announcement, Bea said Mercy intends to open the 20,000-square-foot facility by the end of the year.


That timetable would have the new Mercy facility opening just ahead of St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital and Dean Clinic Janesville, which is scheduled to open in early January.


Bea said Wednesday that earlier comments he made about Mercy’s facility not being a competitive response to St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital might have been misconstrued.


He said Wednesday that Mercy needs more rooms for emergency treatment, and that’s the impetus for the new facility. In addition, he said, the new department will be able to treat patients from Janesville’s north side and the Milton area much quicker.


“We determined that we need eight more rooms, but we’re landlocked (at Mercy Hospital & Trauma Center),” he said. “Our ER here abuts our cancer center, and the only way to expand it here would be to knock down part of the cancer center, which is illogical.


“So we determined that we need to build a satellite facility—one licensed emergency department with two locations.”


The new facility—Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center Emergency North—will be a 24-hour emergency department that Bea said would be an extension of the hospital and trauma center on Mineral Point Avenue.


Plans call for a helipad at the site.


Bea said the eight emergency rooms will bring Mercy’s total at the two facilities to 24. The 12 emergency rooms at St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital will bring the city’s total to 36, which Bea noted is not many more than the 27 rooms at the hospital in Beloit, a city that’s just more than half of Janesville’s size.


“Is Beloit right-sized? I don’t know, but I know what Mercy needs,” Bea said, adding that Mercy’s philosophy is to keep moving forward.


“It’s not to lay out specific strategies or counters to keep the competition from doing something. If the argument or rationale for doing the new emergency department was simply to counter what St. Mary’s is doing, we would have done this a couple of years ago.”


Bea did acknowledge Wednesday that the construction timetable for the new facility can be construed as a competitive move.


“When we arrived at the need for eight more emergency rooms, we decided that as long as we’re going to do it, we’re going to try to get it done before St. Mary’s opens,” he said.


The reason, Bea said, is to treat people in the Mercy network in Janesville and lessen the chances they would be transported to St. Mary’s and then flown out of the city for treatment of severe injuries and illnesses.


“Is the timing competitive?” he asked. “It is in the sense that we want to treat people locally.”


City officials are reviewing plans for the new Mercy clinic and emergency department.


Mercy said the new facility would be the first phase of a three-part plan for the Deerfield Drive property that eventually could include specialty clinics and an inpatient hospital.


Gale Price, the city’s manager of building and development services, said staff needs to review potential stormwater drainage and traffic issues from the perspective of the initial project and how it might tie into future Mercy projects.


Bea said Wednesday he realizes the six-month timetable is aggressive, but he believes it can be met. Mercy has put together an architectural and construction team that’s worked together on several other projects.


“We don’t have to go through the process of getting to know each other,” he said. “It can be done by the end of the year. That’s our goal.”



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