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FHP BREAKS GROUND IN SOUTH S.L. FOR ITS NEW HOSPITAL CAMPUS

Sounding promises of affordable, quality health care - not to mention increased tax revenue for South Salt Lake and new jobs for Utahns - executives of FHP Health Care formally broke ground Tuesday on its new $43 million hospital campus immediately south of I-80 on State Street.

The 28-acre site will include the five-story, 117-bed FHP Hospital, an outpatient medical/specialty center and a regional support center. The hospital will open early in 1993."FHP's hospital will make a significant positive impact on our community," South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis said at the ceremonies. "The number of jobs created, the increased state and local tax revenue, and the attractive setting of the complex are all excellent benefits. The project is a fitting gateway into our community and is the `crown jewel' of South Salt Lake's redevelopment effort."

The medical campus is expected to provide a minimum of 500 new jobs and give a healthy boost to a city heavily reliant on sales tax and hard hit by the recession.

Still, not everyone has shared the mayor's enthusiasm considering Salt Lake Valley's 11 existing facilities are only half full. Since announcement of the FHP medical campus several months ago, critics have raised public concern over the need for yet another hospital. Protesters have included:

- Some health-care officials: They contend another new hospital will do nothing more than drive up already escalating health-care costs. Whether a hospital is full or half-full, they say, doesn't affect the overhead costs of maintaining the facility. And operating costs will be passed on to paying customers.

FHP's response: "Our first choice was to purchase an existing facility, but the hospitals we talked to were not interested in entertaining an offer to sell," said Elden Mitchell, FHP Regional vice pre-sident."We wouldn't be building the hospital unless operating our own were less expensive than contracting for those services in the community. We believe that by the time our hospital is complete in early 1993, other area hospitals will have resolved their current `overbedded' situation."

- A small group of South Salt Lake residents and businesses: They accused FHP and South Salt Lake's Redevelopment Agency, as well as Davis, of putting progress over people. Some residents initially refused to accept what they considered too little money for their property needed for the medical campus.

FHP's response: Mitchell said FHP has reached mutually satisfying agreements with all owner-occupants. Some who own houses and rent them still haven't settled. Ditto for some businesses.

- Holy Cross Hospital: Twenty-eight employees were laid off because of losses in patient volume, which officials contend resulted from FHP's decision to transfer most of its inpatient services to HCA St. Mark's Hospital until the new FHP hospital is constructed.

FHP's response: "I do know they have been working with a consulting group and have been planning layoffs for a long time. I think we provided them with a good excuse," Mitchell said. "FHP feels we made the decision best suited to control health-care costs for our memberships. Health-care professionals in this market need to look for work for about 10 minutes."

During the past quarter, FHP opened six medical centers: three in Arizona, two in Southern California and one on the island of Guam.

"FHP is committed to the communities we serve," said Pat Vitacolonna, FHP chief operating officer."These new facilities - and now our hospital in Utah - support our growing membership and add capacity for the future."

Established in Utah in 1976, FHP - Utah's largest health maintenance organization - serves 129,000 medical members from Brigham City to Payson.