Health Care and Education & Workforce Development

Mooresville hospital plans next expansion: $33 million project would add emergency department, boost other service areas

March 20, 2006

St. Francis Hospital-Mooresville might finally land the emergency department town leaders want, thanks to a proposed $33 million expansion and renovation.

Plans for an emergency department surfaced in bond paperwork the hospital filed recently with the Indiana Health and Educational Facility Financing Authority. The filing said the hospital also plans to add private rooms and renovate its surgery, joint and colorectal care facilities.

Adding an emergency department also was mentioned in a lawsuit St. Francis officials filed last year against Morgan County in a successful attempt to overturn a moratorium that limited health care construction.

Hospital representatives declined to discuss the expansion.

"We have not finalized the project plans, so we're not releasing any details pertaining to the Mooresville expansion at this time," said Kelli Searles, the hospital's director of marketing and community relations.

Even so, the hospital's parent-Mishawaka-based Sisters of St. Francis Health Services Inc.-has filed plans to issue more than $19 million in bonds to help cover construction costs at the 80-bed hospital.

The Sisters of St. Francis operates St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers, which runs the Mooresville hospital and locations in Beech Grove and at Emerson Avenue and Stop 11 Road on the south side.

The Mooresville hospital will add 110,000 square feet in a two-story expansion that would boost its size nearly 50 percent, according to a project description filed with the state Department of Homeland Security's Division of Fire and Building Safety. That paperwork pegs the project cost at $33 million.

St. Francis has invested $60 million in its Mooresville campus since purchasing the former Kendrick Memorial Hospital in 1999. In 2004, it dedicated a $20.8 million expansion that added 77,000 square feet and increased the hospital's size 40 percent.

The hospital doubled the capacity of its PromptMed urgent care facility and moved it into the main hospital during that project.

The possibility of an emergency department is an inviting prospect for Mooresville Town Council President Tom Warthen. He said community leaders and residents have "longed for and hoped for an emergency room closer to our town."

Ambulance crews currently take patients to one of four locations: St. Francis' south-side hospital, Methodist Hospital downtown, Hendricks Regional Health in Danville or Martinsville's Morgan Hospital & Medical Center.

Sometimes it takes them two hours to reach one of those hospitals, drop off the patient, fill out paperwork, and return to Mooresville, according to Warthen.

"That two hours is what's killing us," he said. "We'd be delighted to see emergency room services provided."

The prospect of another Morgan County emergency department draws a different reaction from Tom Laux, president and CEO of the 88-bed Morgan Hospital & Medical Center.

"You've got to keep your facilities up, and I'm sure they have a need to do that. Where I get concerned is when they unnecessarily duplicate existing services that the community owns here," he said.

He believes the seven emergency rooms-including his-that sit within a 30-minute drive of Mooresville already meet emergency care needs. However, he said he also respects the perspective of town leaders who want one.

Morgan Hospital recently began a fiveyear development agreement with Indianapolis-based Clarian Health Partners. Laux has said that agreement could include help with Morgan's own expansion plans, which call for a 77-bed patient tower and development of 35 acres of land it owns.

Any additional construction in Mooresville won't curb those plans, he said. The hospital's business has averaged 11-percent annual growth, and Laux feels Morgan Hospital can continue to compete on quality.

"We've established a very positive track record of success, and we intend to keep that going," he said.
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