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IHC PUTS EXPANSION PLANS ON HOLD AT 3 HOSPITALS

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Expansion and remodeling projects at Utah County's three IHC hospitals are on hold pending advances in national health-care reform.

A shift nationwide toward more outpatient services and growth in the county spawned a seven-year expansion and remodeling plan two years ago at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.Now, hospital administrators believe the shift will be toward primary care, and they've put the $50 million-to-$100 million expansion project on hold until Hillary Rodham Clinton's health-care task force comes up with the plan hospital administrators believe will change the face of health care.

Ron Jones, assistant hospital administrator, said the Intermountain Health Care hospitals in Utah County - of which Utah Valley Regional Medical Center is the largest - are not strong on primary-care facilities.

"They may come up with a plan that says everyone has to have primary-care coverage. Then we'll have to make some changes in that direction. We may have to build more primary-care facilities," Jones said.

The hospital's master plan for expansion included a new outpatient and inpatient tower as well as a new intensive-care unit, coronary-care unit and a four-level parking terrace.

Now, "Everything is on hold. We need some questions answered. We need to see what direction health care is going and we need to know that before we can do anything," Jones said.

Although there are several areas at the hospital that need a "quick fix," even money for those things has been put on hold, Jones said.

The $2.1 million intensive-care and coronary-care unit that was built two years ago already is overflowing. Also, radiology, radiation and oncology departments need to be expanded.

IHC is holding the funds for those projects to find whether they will be needed as much as or more than primary-care facilities in the future.

A tower for outpatient and inpatient services was to be completed this year and a parking terrace was supposed to be completed by this fall. Construction has not begun on either.

Other than an education center now being built, Orem Community Hospital - also owned by Intermountain Health Care - has also put plans on hold.