Sep. 7--Plans include an ER, birthing rooms
The Via Christi Wichita Health Network will build a $75 million, 72-bed community hospital in west Wichita, the first major hospital expansion into one of the fastest-growing areas of Sedgwick County.
Via Christi closed Aug. 29 on 120 acres at 21st Street and 151st Street West and plans to build a 149,000-square-foot hospital with an adjacent medical office building, officials announced Thursday.
"It's the natural evolution to have an acute-care hospital on the west side," said Larry Schumacher, president and chief executive of the health network. "It's time for the west side to have its own facilities."
Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring and take 18 to 24 months, planners said.
Planning for the full-service hospital -- which will include an emergency department and birthing rooms -- began more than four years ago. It became a reality in 2006 when Via Christi's board of trustees granted approval to buy land.
The site, about a half-mile west of the Northwest YMCA, was chosen for its proximity to the proposed northwest bypass and is a reflection of the substantial growth rate in west Wichita, said Allan Allford, chief executive of Via Christi Health Partners and senior vice president for business development for the health network.
"We looked at the ZIP codes west of I-235 and what we saw is that the projected growth rate is one of the highest in Sedgwick and Butler counties," he said. "We were looking for a location that would endure for years, and we think we have an excellent site."
The area has a projected growth rate of 7.4 percent through 2010 -- the highest in the region -- which will result in more than 141,000 residents in 52,000 households, Allford said. That's an increase of about 10,000 people from 2005 data.
Allford said Via Christi is weighing whether to fund the hospital in a physician equity partnership or build it as a wholly owned Via Christi facility.
The health network will launch a medical office feasibility study in the next few weeks to determine physicians' interest in leasing or owning office space there.
Last fall, Via Christi hired the Hammes Co. --a national health care facility developer and consultant -- to help form a master facilities plan.
"Part of our strategic planning... is understanding the dynamics of patients and physicians in that market to ultimately create partnerships," said Hammes regional vice president Travis Messina. "Sometimes that's financial, sometimes that's just in terms of relationships."
It's a good time for expansion in west Wichita, which has only recently attracted more retail stores and restaurants, said Stan Longhofer, director of the Center for Real Estate at Wichita State University.
"When you make a large investment like that, you really have to have a long-term vision of where the customers will be and what you need to do to serve them," he said. "Clearly that northwest part of town is seeing tremendous growth in households. If you don't (build) it, somebody else will."
Other west-side projects
Health care providers have been eyeing the west side for a while now.
Physician Gregory Lakin, whose New Medical Health Care offices are near Via Christi's proposed hospital site, and a group of investors have already announced plans to build a $37 million physician-owned hospital on Maize Road between Kellogg and Maple.
That project also will include a skilled nursing center -- currently under construction -- and a medical office building to complement the 30- or 40-bed hospital, Lakin said. Construction for the hospital could begin as early as December.
"We're going full steam ahead on this anyway," Lakin said. "We know where our patient base is; we already have it. The money's there, the interest is there, and the support is there. It's going to happen."