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Hospital building boom barrels across southwest Missouri

Both Cox and Mercy hospitals are working on major expansion projects in Springfield and Branson.

April 04, 2013|by Linda Russell, KY3 News | lrussell@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A hospital building boom is underway.  Both CoxHealth and Mercy Springfield are in the midst of major expansions.  Between Springfield and Branson construction, the two health care companies are spending about $365 million.

Both Mercy and CoxHealth says their current expansion plans are based on the needs of a growing and aging population.

Mercy just broke ground on a rehabilitation hospital in southeast Springfield, and is nearing completion next door on its orthopedic facility. 

"It really is based on need," said Mercy President and CEO Dr. Robert Steele.  

The orthopedic hospital will likely see a lot of baby boomers. 

"They expect to still be running half marathons at 65.  They are an active group and, because of that, they're going to have a number of orthopedic needs," said Steele.

Mercy is also turning its east wing into a Children's hospital, something Steele calls a long-time goal. 

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"Mercy's committed to being able to keep those children here in the community," Steele said.

There are also plans for a new Mercy Clinic in Branson.  CoxHealth is working on renovation and expansion in Branson too.  And, on Wednesday, the hospital announced a new patient tower at Cox South Hospital.

"This is really a 20- to 30-year planning cycle, and what's happening is there's an undeniable wave of patients coming our way, with the aging of the population," said CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards.

Edwards says those older than 65 tend to use three to five times more healthcare.  With baby boomers reaching retirement ages, hospitals must prepare, but Edwards says most put it off during the recession.

"But it's getting to a point now where they must grow.  Bond interest rates are at maybe the lowest in my career, and so the ability to access money to grow is as affordable today as it may ever be, and that's stimulating growth in hospitals too, just because the money's so affordable," Edwards said.

The construction boom will bring jobs for hundreds of tradesmen, as well as healthcare professionals, who recruiters will be working to bring to southwest Missouri. 

"The name Springfield has gotten out pretty well, so the recruitment, I think is a great reflection on how positive it is to live here in the Ozarks," said Steele.

The companies say local schools with a focus on healthcare are benefits to filling those upcoming jobs.  Also, CoxHealth and Mercy are both working to partner with the University of Missouri to bring medical students to Springfield for their residencies, in hopes of attracting more doctors.

Totals for the current construction projects are:

Mercy Orthopedic Hospital: $110 million

Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital: $28 million

Mercy Children's Hospital, phase 1: $23.5 million

Mercy Branson Clinic & Urgent Care: $34 million

Mercy says smaller projects, such as renovations to the Mercy Eye and Ear Center bring the total to $210 million.

Cox South Patient Tower: $130 million

Cox Medical Center Branson: $25 million

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