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Big makeover for hospital

Salt Lake Regional Medical Center plans to demolish this east wing as part of a major renovation.
Salt Lake Regional Medical Center plans to demolish this east wing as part of a major renovation.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

Salt Lake Regional Medical Center's getting a major makeover that includes more space, more parking and the very latest medical technology.

Owner IASIS Healthcare Corp. told staff physicians of the $36 million makeover during a retreat at The Canyons in Park City Saturday morning. It will be the first major renovation to the hospital in more than 25 years.

"We toasted it. We applauded it. We partied it," said Brian Dunn, chief executive officer for the 128-year old hospital. "We have to put the planning process together, but it all begins next week, and expectations are to have a good portion done in fiscal year 2004, which begins in October."

All the work will be completed over the next two to four years, he said.

Doctors were excited about the technological advances and the cosmetic changes. But the message the renovation sends from IASIS was possibly more important, said surgeon Dr. Steve Mintz, chief of medical staff. The hospital, which was originally Holy Cross Hospital, has changed hands several times in recent years. When IASIS lost millions of dollars renovating, reopening, then closing what it called Rocky Mountain Hospital on State Street, there was a sad sense that the company wouldn't put any more money into the other hospitals it owns in Utah. And fear that it might pull out of this market completely.

Still, Salt Lake Regional maintained a loyal staff and patient base even as it began to run down physically, Mintz said.

"For some of us, it is like we were too stubborn to move on, and now we're finally going to get our reward, a makeover to a new hospital," Mintz said. "As a doctor, it's been discouraging to see the physical plant deteriorating, getting run down. A couple of companies came in and then turned around to sell it. This is the first company that ever made a commitment to stay here" and improve.

"I'm thrilled. This is something Salt Lake Regional has been discussing as part of its long-range planning. Now it's coming to fruition. It's something our patients, physicians, employees and particularly the community we serve can look forward to," said Dunn.

The east wing of the hospital, built in 1911, currently home mainly to administrative offices, will be torn down soon. The Moreau Building on the corner of South Temple and 1000 East is also slated for demolition. Both sites will be used to provide additional parking.

The chapel, which is a National Historical Registry site, will be left alone.

The makeover includes expanding the surgery capability with new operating rooms and lots of new equipment, including the first combination PET/CT scanner to market, the first Cyberknife to be installed in the region and new Magnetic Resonance Imaging equipment. Early in the renovation, the hospital's exterior, parking and signage will also be upgraded.

Surgical area improvements include addition of an operating suite dedicated to cardiovascular procedures, a neurosurgery suite and an orthopedic operating suite, Dunn said.

The radiology department will be completely remodeled, with addition of new women's imaging center, an MRI suite, the new PET/CT scanner and new ultrasound rooms. The outpatient surgery area will be reconfigured, and the care areas and inpatient rooms will be renovated and upgraded, as well.

Dr. Robert S. Hood, a neurosurgeon, is particularly excited about the Cyberknife, which will arrive in a few months. "It's a means of delivering high-dose radiation to tumors or vascular malformations in the brain," he said. "It's the first device able to treat tumors that way outside of the skull."

The CyberKnife process, called image-guided radiosurgery, has many applications, including removal of lung tumors or tumors along the spine. Hood predicts it will be used increasingly for prostate cancer because it's so accurate, it's an outpatient procedure, and it's basically painless. "Most are treated in a single dose after good planning and imaging. It's a robotic arm that's computer driven and delivers its radiation through hundreds of ports at the same time, while it measures what it's doing and monitors the patient," he said.

It will also be the first in the Intermountain region. There's one in Boulder, one in Phoenix and some on the West Coast.

Phase 2 of the renovation includes building a five-story, 85,000-square-foot medical office building that will run west to east along 100 South, Dunn said.

The hospital has 250-300 "active staff" physicians, as well as about that many who have courtesy privileges there. Most area physicians have hospital privileges at more than one facility.

Iasis Healthcare is based in Franklin, Tenn. It owns or leases 14 hospitals in four regions, as well as three ambulatory surgery centers and a Medicaid health plan that serves members in Arizona. Its Utah facilities also include Pioneer Valley, Jordan Valley and Davis.


E-mail: lois@desnews.com