All over the country, hospitals systems are reeling from the devastating financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are beginning to delay big construction projects.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, a new $920 million, 12-story inpatient hospital planned by Michigan Medicine has been indefinitely put on hold.
In Orlando, Florida, a new, $175 million teaching hospital planned by the University of Central Florida has been pushed to next year.
In Colorado Springs, Colorado, several parts of an ambitious $750 million expansion by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is on pause.
Hospital systems across the U.S. are losing an estimated $50 billion a month now, according to the American Hospital Association, and are looking everywhere to cut costs.
So what is going on with the biggest capital project at a health system in central Indiana: the transformation of the Methodist Hospital campus, estimated to cost more than $1 billion when it was announced five years ago?
The design of the long-anticipated project was originally set to be unveiled by the end of 2018, but has been delayed several times—most recently this spring, as the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep across the United States.
A spokesman at Methodist Hospital’s owner, Indiana University Health, said Monday that the system still plans to open the new campus for patients by 2026, as originally announced. But he had no news about the design or groundbreaking.
“The timeline for the project is unchanged and there will be an update coming later this year,” spokesman Jeff Swiatek said in an email.
IU Health officials are preoccupied with pandemic, and are focusing on reopening and restarting a huge number of delayed procedures, he added.
Last month, IU Health reported that operating income plunged 49% in the first quarter, as it was forced to postpone elective surgeries and inpatient procedures while paying out more money for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indianapolis-based health system, which operates 16 hospitals, said the number of surgeries fell by 7.5% and the number of inpatient discharges fell by 7.2% in the quarter.
That happened as Gov. Eric Holcomb last month ordered all hospitals to delay non-essential and elective surgeries and procedures to conserve personal protective equipment. Elective surgeries and procedures are among the biggest money-makers at most hospitals.
Hospitals have since been allowed to resume elective procedures.
It is still unclear how Methodist Hospital will look when the project is done, or how much of the existing facilities will remain. IU Health executives have said the project will be a major public works project and would take five to seven years to complete.
Methodist Hospital opened in 1908, and some of the original wings remain on the sprawling campus.
Part of the plan was made public when the Indiana University School of Medicine announced earlier this year it would leave its longtime home on the IUPUI campus and move about two miles north into a new $200 million building, helping create an “academic health campus” near Methodist Hospital.
The IU Board of Trustees recently approved a campus master plan for IUPUI that it says will “reposition” the medical school to West 16th Street, between North Senate and North Capitol avenues.
The move in intended to bring together the medical school and research operations with Methodist Hospital, the state’s largest hospital.
But neither the IU School of Medicine nor IU Health have been willing to provide many details yet about the Methodist campus overhaul.