New Medical Center to Be Built Near Clayton, N.C.

Nov. 17--SMITHFIELD -- A $35 million diagnostic center near Clayton would be an "outpatient chassis" upon which Johnston Memorial Hospital could grow, the hospital's chief administrator said on Tuesday.

During a news conference at the Medical Mall, Kevin Rogols, who has been on the job for five months, rolled out a conceptual drawing for the center, which would sit on 75 acres at the intersection of N.C. 42 and Amelia Church Road. The land sits just northeast of the U.S. 70 bypass of Clayton.

The hospital has agreed to pay $5.6 million for the land and expects to close on the deal by the end of December. Construction is expected to begin in December of 2007.

Rogols said phenomenal growth in western Johnston drove the hospital's decision to build the center. While the main campus in Smithfield would continue to be the flagship, a medical center between Clayton and the Cleveland community would position the hospital to meet future healthcare needs, he said.

Even though Johnston Memorial is centrally located, traffic patterns make it easy to drive to Raleigh, Rogols pointed out. And the county has issued 12,000 permits for single-family homes along the geographic band closest to the Wake border, he said.

"We're finding that one strategy doesn't fit all," Rogols said.

With the center in place, Johnston Memorial is hopeful it can entice residents accustomed to seeing doctors and using hospitals in Wake. A marketing survey shows that half the population is getting their healthcare needs met in-county, he said.

The diagnostic center is the newest piece of the hospital's master facilities plan, which includes an $85 million expansion and renovation at Johnston Memorial Hospital. That project would include a new central energy plant and a five-story patient tower.

Rogols envisions Johnston Memorial, with its plans for expanding, evolving from a community hospital to a regional medical center.

The diagnostic center would include an emergency room and eight observation beds where patients could be kept up to 48 hours. It would have operating rooms for outpatient surgery and an adjoining medical office building.

Rogols said the hospital would need a Certificate of Need from the state's Division of Facility Services before it could establish the emergency room and buy the diagnostic imaging equipment, which would offer mammograms, CT scans and MRIs.

Also, JMH is seeking permission to move an operating room -- and another one that's yet to be built -- from The Summit in Clayton to the new center. All three requests are contained in a CON application filed Wednesday.

Rogols said the hospital would convert into medical offices the space it now leases at The Summit. In Smithfield, construction on the $17 million energy plant and 119 parking spaces would begin in January. Construction on the $68 million bed tower, plus 298 additional parking spaces, would begin in December of 2007. Renovations to the existing building would begin in January of 2010.

Also on Tuesday, Rogols said the hospital had adopted a plan to recruit doctors. As he has held meetings in outlying towns and communities, he has heard residents say they need more doctors.

He said the hospital has initiated discussions with developer Fred Smith about opening a primary care practice at Riverwood. And Rogols wants to talk to Becky Flowers, who has already asked about a medical office among the subdivisions she is developing along N.C. 42 east of Clayton.

"We have communities that are significantly underserved," Rogols said. "But we have to have a place to put them."

The hospital has outlying family-care clinics at McGee's Crossroads and Kenly, and QuikMeds at Smithfield and in the Cleveland community. But the sites are losing about $2 million a year.

Rogols said the losses underscored the importance of learning to run clinics more efficiently. The hospital is working on a plan to cut costs.

Copyright (c) 2006, The Smithfield Herald, N.C. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.