When building hospitals, what does California Northstate University know that the University of Michigan doesn't?

Construction will start next month on this 264-bed hospital at the University of Michigan and is expected to be completed in about five y...

Construction will start next month on this 264-bed hospital at the University of Michigan and is expected
to be completed in about five years. |     

Even though most of my 60-plus years have been spent outside of Michigan, and the majority of those in California, at heart, I will always be a Michigander. Those roots included being born in Detroit and an alumnus of the University of Michigan.

As such I still have some family ties in the Great Lakes State, follow the professional and collegiate sports teams, and keeps tabs on news and politics. It was with some curiosity, I saw a recent story on a new hospital that was approved.

Last week the University of Michigan board of regents approved the construction of a $920 million, 12-story, 264-bed at the Ann Arbor campus (U of M has three campuses) as part of their expansive University of Michigan Health System. Michigan Medicine, the clinical arm of the UMHS currently owns or is affiliated with 15 hospitals and 40 outpatient clinics statewide.

The Detroit News reported "the project has been under discussion for years" according to Dr. Shauna Diggs, chair of the Board of Regents' health committee and that $35 million was spent on a needs analysis. The project is funded by the University of Michigan's healthcare center, Michigan Medicine and a philanthropic campaign.

Construction on the project is scheduled to start next month, and the completion can be as early as late 2024.

Much like the University of Michigan, founded in 1817, there is a university hospital proposed in Elk Grove by California Northstate University, founded in 2010. Their project, their first undertaking of its kind, is proposed for the Stonelake Landing shopping center on the city's far west side and calls for a $1 billion, 400-bed trauma hospital which currently does not have an identified funding source.

The University of Michigan's medical complex in Ann Arbor. 
According to the information posted on the City of Elk Grove's website frequently asked questions page about the CNU project, school administrators have a far more ambitious timeframe as compared to the Michigan project. To the question of when the project will be open, the city said: "should the project be approved, CNU has indicated that they are targeting a late 2022 opening of the hospital."

In other words, the University of Michigan which operates a worldwide recognized healthcare and research facility will take five years to build their hospital, while CNU, which has no experience of any kind planning and building a hospital will finance and build a hospital three years from today? Keep in mind; this 2022 target date is contingent on obtaining $1 billion in financing, have the project approved by the city of Elk Grove next year and building the facility in about a two-year time frame from that point.

Let's consider a few more things. First, there is the still unanswered question on who pays for levee improvement needed to build a hospital in flood plain. 

Michigan is considered the safest of the 50 states from natural disasters. Conversely, California is the second-worst state at risk for natural disasters. 

This disaster vulnerability explains the lengthy approval process for hospitals in California by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, OSHPD. At a recent Elk Grove city council meeting an executive from Dignity Health, which can trace its lineage to California's Gold Rush era, has approved plans for a 100 to 200 acute care hospital in the city said it would take "a couple years" for OSHPD approval and it could open its facility in six to seven years (video below).

All of this leads to the question, when it comes to financing, planning, and building a hospital in three years from today, what does CNU know that the University of Michigan, and for that matter, Dignity Health doesn't?  

The answer is they don't - they are merely blowing smoke. Of course, from CNU's perspective, can you blame them? 

They are, after all running a business, and like any self-respecting enterprise, you need an effective marketing plan. Any effective marketing plan contains a degree of swagger - some might say hubris - that creates the air of inevitability.   

The more troubling aspect of this smoke and mirror game is the hubris-enabling behavior by the City of Elk Grove. While the city staff, especially city manager Jason Behrmann and economic development director Darrell Doan bear responsibility, the buck stops with the Elk Grove City Council.

Why have the five members of the Elk Grove City Council not publicly questioned CNU's claims? Is it because the school's president Alvin Cheung has made significant campaign donations to Mayor Steve Ly and Councilman Darren Suen, or is there some nefarious activity involving all five city council members hidden from the public view?  

How can their silence be explained? It's deafening.

Oh sure, Vice Mayor Pat Hume will point to his critique of Cheung and other CNU principals wasting their political capital at a recent meeting. Longtime Elk Grove City Council observers know better - this is Hume acting, not a crummy performance at that, but an act nonetheless feigning indignation from the dais by the dean of the city council. 

So as CNU creates their illusion, and the five-member Elk Grove City Council plays along for whatever their reason - legal or otherwise - we still ask the question - what does California Northstate University know that the University of Michigan doesn't?


Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2019. All right reserved.

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Chris A said...

The comparison the writer is trying to draw is not accurate. While California NorthState may be a University, or is NOT a State University.

I work for University Health Care System. EVERYTHING takes much longer to build, because you are per of a quasi-State organization, and in some other States, a pure State organization.

Anything that is built where I work could be done in less than half the time in the private sector.

That the beginning and the end of it.

Spoons and Forks said...

So you agree with California Northstate University's assessment that they can open a 400-bed hospital by 2022? We are all entitled to our views, even if it is simplistic and addle-minded like that posted above.

Regardless,Elk Grove has a poor track record in getting things built - private or public sector. Remember the Elk Grove Promenade? How about the delay on the aquatic center? Can you imagine Mayor Lie lobbying Washington DC to fund the levee improvements? He is more interested in playing golf with the Laotian ambassador than bringing home some bacon.

The City of Elk Grove has been identified as an easy mark by the California Northstate University crew, and there is such a proliferation of institutional ineptitude in Elk Grove city hall that they have the equivalent of "kick me" sign taped on their backside.

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