Dignity Health lays out timeline for new Elk Grove hospital in online town hall meeting

Phyliss Baltz (left) president of Dignity Health's Methodist Hospital and Councilmember Darren
Suen during Tuesday night's town hall meeting on a new hospital opening in Elk Grove. |   

In an online town hall meeting held on Tuesday, June 30 sponsored by Elk Grove City Councilmember Darren Suen, updated information was provided by Dignity Health on their plans to open what could be Elk Grove's first full-service hospital.

In the 40 minute session, one of the first questions Suen asked Phyliss Baltz, president of Dignity's Methodist Hospital in Sacramento if the plans for the facility were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and previous shelter in place orders.

"We are still on schedule, we are very proud of our plans to open the first hospital serving the Elk Grove community," Baltz said.

Expanding on her answer, Baltz said the health care provider as spent the last year planning on the needs of the future hospital, which was announced in early January 2020. The new hospital is planned for 200,000 sq. ft. and 100 beds.

"What's most important is that we approach the project in a thoughtful way, it is a very complicated process to build a hospital," Baltz noted. "We also want to be engaging our staff and physicians in the design process, and also the community is forums such as this."

As part of the planning process, Baltz said the Dignity team would be further developing plans to be submitted to the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. OSHPD is the regulatory agency that approves designs and plans for hospitals statewide.  

During her discussion, Baltz also noted the evolution of health care and its effects on hospital planning. One of those developments has been increased use of outpatient surgery and care, which has decreased the need for beds.

"In terms of bed demand and needs, we are looking at where health care is evolving, " she said. "Much more is going outpatient, more surgical procedures are going outpatient, and we continue to see that trend going forward."

Baltz also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly accelerated the use of telehealth, where patients have video appoints with heath care professionals. She stressed their studies indicate given current demographics and population in their service area, the facility would meet demands, but added their previously granted entitlements from Elk Grove allow them to expand on their 30-acre site if warranted by market demand.

The process for planning, approval, and construction typically takes about seven years in California, and Dignity Health expects their facility, located on Wymark Drive in Elk Grove, will be open in approximately six years from today.  The OSHPD review process takes about two years, according to Baltz. 

Although Dignity has a formalized plan announced, there is an unspoken race between their facility and one being proposed by for-profit California Northstate University, who announced plans in 2018 for a $900 million 400-bed hospital in Elk Grove's Stonelake neighborhood to be Elk Grove's first hospital. Since their announcement, CNU has steadfastly maintained they will open the first phase of their project by the end of 2022. 

CNU has submitted their plans to Elk Grove for environmental review, but there is no hearing currently scheduled. The environmental review process would be made available to the public before hearings by the Elk Grove Planning Commission and the Elk Grove City Council. 

The City of Elk Grove's webpage devoted to the CNU project has not been updated since the announcement that the March 23 Trails Committee review meeting was canceled. CNU spokesperson Brian Holloway said CNU is proceeding with their project as planned and noted the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for greater bed capacity. 

“The California Northstate University medical center project is moving forward aggressively toward our target of opening in 2022. Although any timetable is subject to external factors, all of our efforts are focused on meeting the 2022 date," Holloway said. "The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical need for more hospital beds and facilities, and the delivery of high-quality healthcare to our community.”

In a question from a viewer of the meeting, Baltz was asked about Dignity Health's position on the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd and the ensuing national discussion on race.

"We see the racial inequities and disparities in health care, and this is not a new issue," she said. "That is part of our mission in what we seek to do, to be part of the solution to that problem."

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.



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