Baptist Memorial Hospital, one of Memphis, Tenn.'s oldest and largest hospitals, wants to reinvent itself, starting with a shift of services to a more affluent corner of the city.
"The population has shifted to east Memphis," said Baptist spokeswoman Echelle Lane. "We just don't have the same population numbers in the downtown area as when the buildings were built."
Baptist operates two acute-care facilities in Memphis: 451-bed Baptist Memorial Hospital-Medical Center, an 87-year-old facility on the city's west side, and 573-bed Baptist Memorial Hospital-East, a 20-year-old facility on the city's east side.
Baptist's parent, Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., owns 15 other hospitals in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.
Under a plan the state approved earlier this year, Baptist wants to:
* Replace its flagship midtown facility on the west side with a new 472-bed hospital. The original hospital is licensed for 1,200 beds. The new facility would emphasize ambulatory and outpatient services.
* Shift 272 of those licensed but unused beds to its existing hospital on the east side.
Construction of a new facility is one option being considered as a cheaper alternative to bringing the old midtown Baptist facility up to modern standards, according to the certificate-of-need filing. The estimated cost of the project is $127 million.
The area immediately surrounding the midtown medical center has roughly one-third the population of the area surrounding the hospital to the east, but the population there is growing faster, according to information obtained from the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce.
The population immediately around the flagship hospital grew by 28% between 1990 and 1998, compared with 13% in the area around Baptist's east campus (See box).
Lane said the figures don't take into account other areas served by the two hospitals.
"The medical center doesn't only serve the 38103 ZIP code, and the east campus doesn't just serve the 38120 ZIP code," she said. "I think it's a question too of the types of populations."
Lane said there are more families in east Memphis, while more young people live downtown.
Perhaps a more telling statistic is median household income. According to Chamber of Commerce data, the median household income in 1998 in the midtown area was $34,434. In the area surrounding Baptist's east campus, it's nearly twice that: $67,448.
Meanwhile, Baptist closed St. Joseph Hospital and Health Centers, which it purchased last year, consolidating its downtown staff and beds into its own downtown campus. The median income around St. Joseph Hospital in 1998 was $10,345.
The eastward migration of acute-care beds is not likely to happen for at least another year, when Baptist is finished building a women's hospital, which is scheduled to open on the east campus in 2001. The campus also is getting a new cardiac services unit and new bed tower.
In 1998, the Baptist Memorial system lost $18 million on total revenues of $1.6 billion, with the downtown medical center showing a net loss of $39 million.