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Ill. hospital plans $53 million upgrade for operating rooms

Rush-Copley Medical Center plans to expand and modernize its operating rooms, a move the Aurora hospital says is needed to stay ahead of the area's growing population.

The $52.7 million project would add three operating rooms to the hospital's current 11, according to an application filed July 7 with the Illinois Health Facilities Planning and Review Board.

“Copley has an inadequate number of operating rooms to accommodate its historic surgical caseload, and the shortage of operating rooms will continue to exist in the next few years, increasing slightly due to the projected population increase and the aging of the population,” the application argues.

The area has been among the fastest-growing regions in the state. Between 2000 and 2010, the city of Aurora grew by 38%, according to U.S. census data. The state's population rose just 3.3% over the same period.

Population growth is just one factor in when hospitals decide to expand. To capture those new patients, the hospital must make the case to surgeons that it is the best place to bring their patients. Updating facilities and equipment is a form of marketing to a key constituency, according to one expert.

Surgeons “want to be able to do the latest procedures on their patients and they don't want to be in an operating room where the equipment is archaic or obsolete,” said Doug Fenstermaker, a former health system CFO and executive vice president at Atlanta-based Warbird Consulting Partners. “It's an expensive proposition, but for surgeons in particular, you don't want to mess with the operating rooms.”

Aurora's growth in the 2000s vaulted it to No. 2 behind Chicago among Illinois' most populous cities. By 2010, it had 197,899 residents, compared with 142,990 a decade before, census data show.

The city, which was home to more than a third of Rush-Copley's surgical patients in 2013, is expected to grow to more than 209,000 by 2019, according to figures from the city's development office.

APPROACHING CAPACITY

Surgical volume at Rush-Copley has been approaching capacity in recent years, hitting 9,395 cases in 2013, up 5 percent from the prior year, the application states. Volume is expected to grow to 9,794 cases by 2019. The operating rooms also need to be modernized because of growth in neurosurgical and orthopedic surgeries, which are more complex than most other cases.

Though the operating suite is nearing its limit, the hospital hasn't had trouble accommodating patients yet, a Rush-Copley spokeswoman said.

“The high volume has not impacted our ability to treat all patients needing surgery; however, Rush-Copley's current ORs are approaching capacity and with new surgical technology, the need for larger suites is necessitating both the expansion and modernization required for this project,” she wrote in an email.

As part of the project, Rush-Copley is replacing or expanding its post-anesthesia recovery unit, its surgical preparation area and its inpatient endoscopy area. It also is replacing certain nonclinical areas, including conference rooms, the chapel and the gift shop.

If approved, the hospital plans to complete the project by the end of 2018.

"Aurora hospital plans to upgrade operating rooms" originally appeared in Modern Healthcare's sister publication Crain's Chicago Business.

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