Trying to build a replacement for a 514-bed academic medical center is tough enough. Trying to build it in a crowded peninsula city like Charleston, S.C., when the current hospital is already pushing its capacity is an even tougher job. But that's what the Medical University of South Carolina faces.
MUSC got a big assist recently when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a $401 million loan guarantee under its Section 242 program. HUD's guarantee of the construction bonds will allow them to be rated AAA, lowering the interest costs, said Chris Malanuk, director of strategic planning for MUSC. The guarantee is the second largest for a healthcare loan under the program, behind a $590 million guarantee in New York, Malanuk said.
About $276 million of the bond proceeds will be used for site work and construction of a 156-bed patient tower and a diagnostic imaging center, with work set to begin Oct. 21. The remaining $125 million will be used to retire debt with higher interest rates, Malanuk said.
The new patient tower will host MUSC's cardiovascular- and digestive-disease programs and is scheduled to open in January 2008. It will be about two blocks from the current campus.
"The hospital could not go out and secure that kind of rating on its own," Malanuk said. "It certainly allows us to afford more in scope of project, and what we need in this first phase."
The project to fully replace the current site will have at least two more phases, and possibly four more, over the next two decades, with new patient towers eventually adding enough capacity to close the old building, Malanuk said. The added space from the first phase can't come soon enough, as the hospital is running at 85% to 90% capacity most of the time, Malanuk said. "We simply don't have a way to add more beds during this process," he said. "There is a bed-capacity task force largely led by our medical staff that is working on (alternatives)."
MUSC's new site is adjacent to 161-bed Ralph H. Johnson Veteran Affairs Medical Center. MUSC is negotiating with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to integrate Johnson into the new campus, possibly as a separate but connected part of the completed project, Malanuk said. By working together, he said, both organizations can share the expense of some overhead and technology items.