Plans for a new hospital were first announced in 2014, a few months after the aging infrastructure of the old facility was put to the test — and failed. A polar vortex delivered subzero temperatures and brutal winds to the region and burst pipes and flooded rooms to MetroHealth.
Over the years, MetroHealth president and CEO Dr. Akram Boutros has recounted sharing with business and civic leaders the story of the polar vortex and hearing that MetroHealth's hospital was good enough for "those people."
"These statements demonstrated that there was a significant lack of understanding of MetroHealth's critical role in our community, and they were emblematic of the attitude that some of our neighbors deserved less than others," Boutros said in prepared remarks for the Glick Center ribbon-cutting. "In a way, we owe thanks to these people. They got us charged up. We were angry and determined to prove them wrong. Quickly, we designed and built two new floors on top of our Emergency Department. And we financed it on our own."
The Critical Care Pavilion, a 100,000-square-foot vertical extension with 85 Intensive Care Unit Rooms above the existing Level I Trauma Center, opened in 2016 as the first piece of MetroHealth's main campus transformation.
The discussions to replace the towers quickly grew to encompass the entire 52-acre campus on West 25th Street, Jones said. Leaders recognized that by nature of the project, the campus would need to be reconfigured and rearranged. That led into discussions of how to best deliver care not as a health and hospital system but as a health and wellness system.
"It became more of a catalyst for a much broader community transformation, and that started then getting itself input into the actions of the organization," Jones said. "First with the recognition of population health, the creation of the Institute for H.O.P.E., the development of our private, community development corporation CCH, and being able now to have a direct impact in terms of elements and the surrounding community."
In collaboration with public, private, nonprofit and civic partners, the CCH Development Corp., formed by MetroHealth aims to accelerate the pace of revitalization of West 25th Street and the surrounding neighborhoods. Jones also pointed to MetroHealth's Institute for H.O.P.E. (Health, Opportunity, Partnership and Empowerment), which aims to tackle the social drivers of health, and to Via Sana, a health and housing project with 72 affordable apartments, spearheaded by Cleveland-based developer NRP Group in collaboration with MetroHealth.
Also part of the campus transformation is what's known as the Apex building, an outpatient facility expected to be completed in late 2023 with the first patients seen in the first quarter of 2024. The demolition of the current outpatient buildings on campus will follow, allowing space for the full park to open in 2025. MetroHealth anticipates the RFP for park design to go out before the end of the year.
"The transformation piece, if you will, started to expand and still continues to expand beyond that," he said. "And I think that's really a key thing over my eight years — but you've gotta remember it's Dr. Boutros' 10 — that you know, that has grown significantly in terms of what the vision, how the vision of MetroHealth, and its role in the community as a corporate citizen in this corner of the Clark Fulton neighborhood has, you know, manifested itself over this period of time."
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's Cleveland Business.