Quirk said the construction sector must keep moving forward regardless of how battles over national health policy—which could affect provider revenue—play out. “Whatever happens politically, the industry has changed the way healthcare is being delivered,” he said.
Those changes have meant fewer and smaller construction projects. But Quirk said that is not necessarily a negative trend, because it forces the sector to be innovative and develop facilities that can adapt to the new care-delivery models. “It's almost re-energizing the industry,” he said. “It's driving efficiency into the way healthcare is delivered.”
Even so, a few huge projects have just been completed or are wrapping up. Construction was finished in October on the $1.2 billion Parkland Hospital in Dallas. The 862-bed facility and its 2.5 million-square-foot campus were scheduled to open in May, but that date has since been moved to Aug. 20. The $1.1 billion, 446-bed University Medical Center in New Orleans also pushed back its scheduled May opening and will now accept its first patients Aug. 1.
Delays and cost increases also are slowing work on Veterans Affairs Department hospitals under construction near Denver, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando, Fla. A January report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said costs for those projects have risen between 66% and 144%, while delays have ranged from 14 to 86 months.
But not all large projects have been delayed or gone over budget. A “topping-off” ceremony was held Jan. 14 to mark installation of the highest steel beam in the $1.1 billion, 521,000-square-foot expansion of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif. The project is still expected to open in 2017 as scheduled.
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center's $800 million, 460-bed Williams P. Clements Jr. University Hospital opened Dec. 6 in Dallas. The $750 million Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center—Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute opened Dec. 15 in Columbus. And the $1.5 billion University of California San Francisco Medical Center at Mission Bay complex opened Feb. 1 in San Francisco.
The UCSF project includes hospitals for children, women and cancer patients, and a 207,500-square-foot outpatient building expected to handle 1,500 patient visits a day. It has received gold-level certification in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program recognizing environmentally friendly construction and operations.
The rule of thumb says it typically costs $2 million per bed to build a hospital in California. But the $1.5 billion Mission Bay project has only 289 beds that cost more than double that amount—almost $5.2 million per bed. Project leaders argue that the old rule of thumb is no longer valid.
Stuart Eckblad, UCSF Medical Center's director of design and construction, cited the cancer hospital's bone-marrow transplant unit as an example of the system's highly complex care delivery that doesn't fit into the old per-bed cost projection. Mission Bay's project manager, Ray Trebino of DPR Construction, also noted that the cost includes a central utility plant to service all the project's hospitals, outpatient building and future growth.