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Longview Regional Medical Center plans expansion, renovation

By Mike Elswick melswick@news-journal.com
June 5, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Competition for the health care dollars of East Texans grew Tuesday as the smaller of Longview's two hospitals announced major expansion plans that include 175,000 square feet of new construction and the addition of almost 100 patient beds.

Longview Regional Medical Center CEO Jim Kendrick on Tuesday announced the multi-million project that will nearly double the size of the facilities on the hospital's campus.

"We are so proud to formally announce this significant capital project to the public," Kendrick said. "This new facility supports our community's growth, patients' needs and physician partnerships."

He said the project will kick off with a groundbreaking ceremony June 21. Construction is expected to begin in July.

While not releasing total estimated cost, Kendrick said the plans come with a "very, very significant" investment on the part of the hospital and its parent, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems.

City of Longview Development Services officials said while preliminary plans for the project have been filed with the city, the hospital has not applied for building permits that would outline the construction value tied to the expansion.

He said the the expansion will increase the number of patient beds from 131 to 230. That compares to the 425 beds at competing Good Shepherd Medical Center.

The project will result in a new three-story tower as well as the addition of third and fourth floors to the existing structure, Kendrick said.

Longview Regional plans to add about 115,000 square feet to the medical center; renovate another 50,000 square feet and construct a new 60,000-square foot office tower. All of the patient rooms will be private acute care rooms.

Kendrick said construction is expected to be completed in about 18 months.

"We believe it is an important step in enhancing our patients' experience with us and continuing to deliver a higher level of personalized care," Kendrick said.

Paving the way for the expansion was an agreement earlier this year between Longview Regional and Diagnostic Clinic of Longview. The hospital had been partly owned by physicians, including those at Diagnostic Clinic.

"We got to the point where we needed to grow and couldn't," Kendrick said in January." He said further expansion had become legally unwieldy under federal health care reforms that included provisions forbidding doctor-owned hospitals from expanding.

That meant shares of the hospital that were held by doctors, most of whom work out of Diagnostic Clinic, were legally blocking further expansion.

The hospital bought back those syndication shares the local physicians bought in January 2007, officials said.

Dr. Robert Wheeler, president of Diagnostic Clinic, said Longview Regional's plans are a historic milestone for the hospital and the East Texas market it serves.

"This project will provide much needed space to accommodate the growth of this hospital as well as continue to allow for greater integration in the delivery of care for our patients from an office visit to hospitalization and through recovery."

For information on Longview Regional Medical Center, visit www.longviewregional.com.



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