By the time the 2018 Super Bowl arrives at the new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, nearby Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) will be boasting a shiny new building of its own — an outpatient center that aims to consolidate 40 specialty clinics, improve patient care and enhance the hospital’s image.
On Tuesday, the project, decades in the planning, received its final push when the Hennepin County Board voted unanimously to finance $192 million in bonds for the $224.6 million building.
HCMC is so eager to begin the new venture that groundbreaking for the Ambulatory Outpatient Specialty Center had already been scheduled for Nov. 12, hinging on the board’s support.
“HCMC has been really carefully thinking about how to provide a better patient experience in its clinics since the 1970s,” said Scott Wordelman, the medical center’s vice president of ambulatory administration. The 40 specialty clinics now are spread among nine buildings over a five-block area, an inconvenience for patients and care providers.
HCMC is the state’s largest safety net hospital, with a mission to provide care to the indigent. The county-subsidized hospital also has been working to attract patients who carry private insurance, which reimburses at higher rates than Medicare and Medicaid. It has sought to increase access for those patients by opening several suburban clinics in recent years, and the new downtown clinic is a continuation of that effort.
HCMC and the new Vikings stadium are part of the resurgence of the neighborhood on the eastern end of downtown that also includes a new Wells Fargo headquarters, housing and a park.
Before the new buildings started to rise, the area had been anchored by the Metrodome, built in 1982. Even before the Dome came down in January 2014, the landscape was being reshaped. Along with the stadium, office buildings and skyways have risen in an area once dominated by surface parking and the Star Tribune building.
With the new building, HCMC will join the construction boom.
Among the clinics that will be consolidated in the new building are internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedics and urology. HCMC’s cancer center and day surgery department will be there, too.
Wordelman said the move gives HCMC an opportunity to change the “ambience” for patients and push for a more team-centered approach to care. For example, providers on different teams will see each other more often for what Wordelman called “that kind of magical communication that happens” in impromptu meetings.
Work will begin quickly
The board unanimously endorsed the project, with only Chairwoman Jan Callison speaking before the vote. She praised HCMC for working to balance the commitment to serve the poor with an effort to stay competitive in the health care market. With this project, the board is taking a risk and putting faith in HCMC’s managers, she said. “This is certainly an expensive project, but the hospital believes it can pay the bonds back,” she said.
Things will move quickly now.
Design work on the project is complete, Wordelman said. In the past couple of years, HCMC also has acquired and prepared the necessary land south of the hospital’s emergency entrance. The block is bordered by 8th and 9th streets, and Park and Chicago avenues.
The new 377,000-square foot building will be six stories, with a seventh-floor “mechanical penthouse.” The structure will have two underground parking levels, with 220 stalls for patients.
After the groundbreaking, demolition of the existing buildings on the site will begin. Wordelman said construction is likely to be complete in November 2017, with an opening in January 2018. The Super Bowl comes to Minneapolis in February.
HCMC will pay the bonds off over 25 years. In exchange, the board has asked HCMC to provide quarterly updates designed to measure the effectiveness of the investment in the ambulatory clinic.
What becomes of the space vacated by the clinics that move into the new building remains to be determined. Some of that space is leased, Wordelman said. The rest will be discussed next year. “That’s a big part of our focus,” he said.