Hospital plans expansion 6 years after flooding

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A central Indiana hospital is preparing to start work on an expansion project that was first planned before it was badly damaged by flooding six years ago.

The $30 million project at Columbus Regional Hospital will expand its emergency department and cancer center.

The emergency department's patient volume far exceeds what it was designed to handle, and the cancer center has experienced a steady growth in the number of patients, hospital CEO Jim Bickel told The Republic newspaper.

"We've gotten everything out of our space we could, but it's not meeting the needs of the community," Bickel said.

The expansion is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

The hospital had planned a new emergency department and a five-story pavilion with at least 60 private patient rooms in a $108 million expansion. But that project was put on hold after the June 2008 flash flooding of its first floor and basement, which forced its evacuation and closure for several months.

A portion of money set aside for the original expansion project was used to pay employee salaries until the hospital reopened. Money also was invested in upgrading information technology and other information systems, Bickel said.

The expansion project is expected to be complete by the end of next year in Columbus, a city about 40 miles south of Indianapolis.

Bickel said the current emergency department was built in 1992 to handle 25,000 patients a year, but it's been serving about 40,000 since 2009.

Construction of a larger emergency department won't warrant the hiring of more employees unless patient volume increases, said Pamela Missi, the hospital's vice president and chief nursing officer.

Bickel said all money for the project will come from the hospital's cash reserves.

"The $30 million was the amount we could conservatively and safely afford with the changes in health care now," he said.

The hospital had nearly $180 million in damage from the 2008 flooding. Floodgates have since been installed at each of its pedestrian and vehicle entrances aimed at protecting the hospital from water reaching 2 feet higher than an expected 100-year flood.


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  1. You are correct that Obamacare requires health insurance policies to include richer benefits and protects patients who get sick. That's what I was getting at when I wrote above, "That’s because Obamacare required insurers to take all customers, regardless of their health status, and also established a floor on how skimpy the benefits paid for by health plans could be." I think it's vital to know exactly how much the essential health benefits are costing over previous policies. Unless we know the cost of the law, we can't do a cost-benefit analysis. Taxes were raised in order to offset a 31% rise in health insurance premiums, an increase that paid for richer benefits. Are those richer benefits worth that much or not? That's the question we need to answer. This study at least gets us started on doing so.

  2. *5 employees per floor. Either way its ridiculous.

  3. Jim, thanks for always ready my stuff and providing thoughtful comments. I am sure that someone more familiar with research design and methods could take issue with Kowalski's study. I thought it was of considerable value, however, because so far we have been crediting Obamacare for all the gains in coverage and all price increases, neither of which is entirely fair. This is at least a rigorous attempt to sort things out. Maybe a quixotic attempt, but it's one of the first ones I've seen try to do it in a sophisticated way.

  4. In addition to rewriting history, the paper (or at least your summary of it) ignores that Obamacare policies now must provide "essential health benefits". Maybe Mr Wall has always been insured in a group plan but even group plans had holes you could drive a truck through, like the Colts defensive line last night. Individual plans were even worse. So, when you come up with a study that factors that in, let me know, otherwise the numbers are garbage.

  5. You guys are absolutely right: Cummins should build a massive 80-story high rise, and give each employee 5 floors. Or, I suppose they could always rent out the top floors if they wanted, since downtown office space is bursting at the seams (http://www.ibj.com/article?articleId=49481).