Mercy plans to build $6 million facility in Janesville

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Sunday, June 26, 2011
— Twelve years after buying land on Janesville’s northeast side, Mercy Health System plans to build and open a $6 million emergency department and clinic in short order.

System officials said they hope to open the 20,000-square-foot facility just north of Home Depot and Pine Tree Plaza by year’s end, which—if it happens—would be just days before the new St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital and Dean Clinic Janesville opens just down Interstate 90/39.

The project would be the first phase of a three-part plan for the Deerfield Drive property that eventually could add specialty clinics and an inpatient hospital to the 24-acre parcel that Mercy bought in 1999 for $4.3 million.

Phase 1 plans call for a 20,000-square-foot building. Sixty percent of that would be dedicated to what would be known as Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center Emergency North, a 24-hour emergency department that officials said would be an extension of the system’s main hospital and trauma center on Mineral Point Avenue.

The remainder would be dedicated to Mercy Health System Clinic North, a primary care clinic that’s expected to house five physicians and their staffs. It would include a full-service urgent care clinic, 24-hour X-ray imaging, a CT scanner, laboratory services and community and emergency medical services education space.

Javon Bea, Mercy’s president and chief executive officer, said the facility would enhance emergency and primary care services for people who live in or travel through northern Rock County and the Milton area.

“The single most important component of Mercy Health System’s mission is to serve our communities,” Bea said. “The extension of our emergency department and new clinic allows us to bring Mercy-quality primary and emergency services into the backyards of the northern tip of Rock County residents and also provides room to build on the community’s needs well into the future.”

Area ambulance crews have said that the St. Mary’s hospital presents a new geographical option for patients transported from the eastern and southern halves of Rock County, particularly those who don’t need the Level II trauma services provided at Mercy’s main campus.

Crews select their emergency room destinations based on patient choice. In cases where the patient can’t make a decision, they go to the closest, most appropriate emergency department.

Mercy’s planned emergency department on the northeast side would include a drive-through ambulance bay and would provide ambulance crews another option to treat patients that otherwise could have gone about three miles down the Interstate to St. Mary’s.

“Seconds can mean the difference between life and death, and the new facility at Deerfield Drive will serve as another geographic access point to our Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center services on our main campus,” Bea said.

Bea said the planned emergency department is in no way a response to the impending opening of St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital.

“We’re continuing to do what we’ve done for the last 100 years and very heavily for the last 22, and that’s move forward,” Bea said. “I’ve never been one to worry about what the competition’s doing or how to keep them from doing something.

“We could’ve taken a defensive posture and figured out how to block (St. Mary’s), but that’s not how we do things.”

Mercy’s main hospital has had extensive renovations and now features single-patient rooms. The hospital’s ER gets 32,000 visits a year, and Bea said Mercy needs to alleviate that pressure.

Historically, the northeast side of Janesville has been a high growth area, and Bea said he expects that to resume when the economy improves. He doesn’t anticipate traffic congestion between Sam’s Club and Pine Tree Plaza would impede ambulance access to the new facility.

“None of this will replace anything at the main campus,” he said. “It will just be an extension of what we have at the main campus, and our ER physicians will rotate between the two.

“With the new facility, we can stabilize patients and then move them to the main campus for trauma or neurological or cardiac services if it’s needed. If it’s less serious, we can treat them right there.”

Bea said construction is expected to begin in August with an opening by the end of the year.

That’s an aggressive schedule, as city staff first saw plans for the project Friday.

“It will be a challenging schedule trying to put all the pieces together,” said Gale Price, the city’s manager of building and development services.

The project would require a conditional-use permit because the parcel is greater than five acres, its buildings would eventually be greater than 25,000 square feet and its master plan calls for an inpatient hospital, Price said. Before that happens, city staff will consider the site layout, storm water drainage issues and traffic patterns.

Staff ultimately will make a recommendation to the city plan commission.

When Mercy bought the property in 1999, it initially announced plans for an acute-care hospital that would treat the “sickest of the sick.”

But Bea said the health care industry is different than it was 12 years ago.

“Way back when we bought it, we thought we would need more rooms for acute care and a 100-bed intensive care hospital,” he said. “But life changes, and health care has gone so much to outpatient.

“With the renovations on the main campus, the addition of new technology and the loss of Dean patients, we’ve got room at the hospital.”

Last updated: 5:22 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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