By Kathryn Acree
Trinity Medical Center has taken a step closer toward relocating from its Montclair Road campus to the brand new 13-story medical facility on Highway 280 at Grandview Parkway.
The proposed move into the building previously described as a “digital hospital” by former owner HealthSouth has had both support and opposition. In August, the hospital achieved a major victory in its effort to gain state regulatory approval for its move to the Highway 280 facility. State Administrative Law Judge James Hampton issued his recommendation in favor of the move. The decision follows months of deliberation and a comprehensive review of the facts during what was the longest such hearing on a healthcare matter in Alabama history.
“We are thrilled that after carefully considering the testimony of more than 61 witnesses during four weeks of hearings, Judge Hampton has concluded that Trinity should move to Highway 280 in Birmingham where we will be able to provide patient care in a modern, technologically advanced medical complex,” said Trinity CEO Keith Granger.
Granger said he would make the move happen immediately if he could. “We’d do it tomorrow,” he said.
The next step in the process will be a hearing before the Alabama Certificate of Need Review Board on Sept. 15, which ultimately will determine whether the project will receive state approval.
“We are wholeheartedly convinced that completing the Highway 280 hospital is the right thing to do and is vitally important for our patients and our community,” Granger said. “The building was designed to be a world-class hospital and that is the only purpose for which it can now be used. We are ready to complete this hospital facility and hopeful that we can begin our work soon.”
If the proposal wins the next approval, Trinity Medical Center looks to infuse the facility with more than $280 million of improvements. A 10-year or more build-out is planned for the campus, with an additional 200,000 square foot professional building linked to the hospital by a parking deck. “We want a design that is the most convenient to patients and visitors,” Granger said.
Currently, the Highway 280 facility is in a state of limbo. Five floors are move-in ready while others sit completely open, ready to be transformed. Much of the facility’s mechanical equipment is already in place: utilities run to every floor; heating and air conditioning is completely functional; wiring and cabling for medical monitoring have been run throughout the building; pipes and hoses for medical gases are already in place.
The term “digital hospital” is not embraced by Trinity as it was by original owner, HealthSouth. “This facility will certainly be state-of-the-art, however, in the years since that phrase was adopted, those technologies are already part of the healthcare industry,” Granger said.
A 50-room behavioral-care unit is planned and an innovative intensive care floor is near completion with rooms designed for a premiere-level of patient care.
Trinity has the facility under contract from Daniel Corporation. Daniel and other supporters seek completion of the site with an innovative healthcare facility for the 280 corridor.
Daniel Corporation is looking at supporting the area with possible plans for a four-star hotel and additional retail growth.
Questions have been raised regarding the hospital’s impact on Highway 280. “Studies through the Department of Transportation have predicted this to be a neutral impact,” Granger said. Some of the most intensive support for the hospital has come from suburban residents that have to travel to downtown hospitals for the level of care provided by a major facility.
Trinity Medical Center’s administration contends the move and renovation would provide a $700-750 million dollar impact on the local economy through jobs and additional tax revenue. Granger predicts an 18-24 month construction period to prepare the site for the opening of the main hospital facility.
“This is will be a flagship facility,” Granger said. “Our move here is estimated to put 5,000 people to work finishing this campus. We’re ready to go.”