Health Care and Insurance and Government

Health construction beat marches on in Hendricks: Population growth spurs health care development

October 31, 2005

A growing population is breeding more multimillion-dollar health care projects in Hendricks County.

Danville-based Hendricks Regional Health will begin work next month on a $16 million medical office building more than a year after completing a $24.5 million hospital expansion, and St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers is staking its claim with a $4.7 million medical office under construction in Plainfield.

Meanwhile, Clarian Health Partners plans to bulk up parts of the 76-bed hospital it opened just last year in Avon, and St. Vincent Health bolstered its Hendricks presence earlier this year in Brownsburg.

Hospital leaders point to not the current population, but the people who will eventually live in Hendricks County, as the prime reason to grow. The county's population is projected to increase 38 percent-up to 130,180 residents-from 2000 to 2009, according to Indianapolis-based consulting firm Health Evolutions Inc.

The new Hendricks Regional office, which should be completed in March 2007, is the largest expansion the hospital has ever undertaken, spokeswoman Meghann York Meenan said.

It follows a 2004 project that gave Hendricks a new emergency department and medical unit with 37 private rooms.

The hospital already has two medical office buildings at capacity.

"We're just building [the latest office] in anticipation of that growth, so we'll be ready to serve the needs of the community at that time," said Dave Albin, director of marketing and planning.

Likewise, population growth prompted St. Francis to start building a 22,077-square-foot medical office in Plainfield, even though its Mooresville hospital sits only a couple of miles away.

Research showed a shortage of four primary care doctors and three obstetriciangynecologists in the Plainfield market based on the current population there, said Keith Jewell, executive director of St. Francis Hospital-Mooresville.

So the new building will house those specialties, along with laboratory, radiology and physical therapy services.

St. Vincent Health also runs a physical therapy program, along with a practice for two doctors that opened in September, north of Plainfield in Brownsburg.

Hendricks County is less populous than counties like Hamilton, Johnson and Marion. However, it has shown steady growth, especially on U.S. 36 between Avon and Danville, noted Duane Sobecki, senior partner with Sobecki & Associates, an Indianapolis health care consulting firm.

"If you were in an emergency, I'm not sure you'd want to come back to Indianapolis, because I'm not sure you can get through all the traffic," he said.

Hendricks offers "incredibly good" demographics for a health care provider, observed Edmund Abel, director of health care services for the Indianapolis-based consulting firm Blue & Co.

That means a high percentage of patients with private insurance, which generally provides better reimbursement than government programs like Medicaid or Medicare.

"I think we're probably going to see new health care in Hendricks County until it gets oversaturated and somebody starts to slip," he said, adding that a rising population could delay that.

Indeed, the latest round of development in the county is by no means the last. Hendricks Regional plans to add another physician office in Lizton, near the Boone County line.

St. Francis plans a "cautious approach" to its new location, according to Jewell. He said no next step was planned, but he wouldn't rule out an additional expansion.

Clarian, the largest of the four major Indianapolis hospital networks, grabbed a piece of the Hendricks market last December when it opened the $170 million Clarian West Medical Center in Avon, between Hendricks Regional and the Marion County line.

The 76-bed hospital has averaged 40 inpatients per day, but is on track for roughly 20,000 emergency visits in its first year, roughly twice what it expected, according to Marketing Manager Cathy Stolls.

She said the new hospital also is adding six maternity center beds to double that space and a fifth operating room.

"The construction is really never over, it seems," she said. "There's always someone in a hard hat."
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