New hospital construction by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. is off to a successful start in two Dallas suburbs, but plans to provide inpatient services in Lawrence, Kan., were dealt a critical blow last week.
The five-member Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to deny Nashville, Tenn.-based Columbia's application for a special-use permit to build a 70-bed hospital in Lawrence. Columbia already has four hospitals in Kansas and now must wait at least a year before asking the Lawrence commission to reconsider its position on a new hospital there.
"Are we going to be back at this? Sure," said Kevin Hicks, president of Columbia Overland Park (Kan.) Regional Medical Center, the closest Columbia inpatient hospital to Lawrence. "We're disappointed that we didn't get approval for the hospital, but it doesn't diminish our outpatient-care efforts, where (Columbia) has invested $14 million and we are clearly the dominant player in Lawrence."
Lawrence Memorial remains the only hospital in the area. Columbia applied for and received a zoning change from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on a 9-0 vote. That decision wasn't opposed by Lawrence Memorial, but the hospital vigorously urged the City Commission to overturn the zoning change (Nov. 18, p. 9).
"The people of Lawrence said they wanted their healthcare to be controlled locally. They stood up for it and won," said Ray Davis, chairman of the board of trustees at Lawrence Memorial.
In the Dallas suburbs, Columbia will be constructing two new hospitals next year in hopes of improving accessibility to the booming areas.
With combined construction costs of about $100 million, Columbia's North Texas division said it will build a new 132-bed acute-care hospital in McKinney and a facility in Mesquite. Specific plans for the Mesquite medical center, including its size, haven't been determined. The Mesquite hospital tentatively is being called Columbia East Regional Medical Center.
Meanwhile, the new McKinney facility will have better access and be located at the southeast corner of Highways 121 and 75 on McKinney's outskirts, while the existing hospital, known as Columbia Medical Center of McKinney, will be sold, executives said. Construction costs in McKinney include costs of a new medical office building for physicians.
The addition of the Mesquite facility will give Columbia 18 hospitals in its North Texas division, the investor-owned giant's largest division in the country. Columbia owns and operates nearly 350 hospitals across the country.