U pauses plans (again) for clinic

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2011 - 5:35 PM

A $200 million project disappeared from a University of Minnesota plan this week.

A $200 million project disappeared from a University of Minnesota plan this week.

The Board of Regents was set to vote on a state capital request that included $100 million in state funding for a new ambulatory care clinic that has been in the works -- on and off -- for several years.

Now, no clinic.

It was dropped because the U, the University of Minnesota Physicians and Fairview Health Services are still negotiating a plan to finance the other $100 million for the project, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the U's chief financial officer.

"It's a tough problem, to try to get the parties to agree," he said. "It's tied up in management of employees. It's about the revenues the clinic generates. It's about contributions to the medical school. It's got four or five moving parts."

The need for the clinic is pressing, U officials say. The current facility, designed in the 1960s and completed in the 1980s, can't handle the number of patients and range of technologies it handles today.

"It's crowded," said Aaron Friedman, a U vice president and dean of the medical school. "We built that site 30 years ago for a different number of patients and a different idea of what would go on inside."

This isn't the first lull in the project's timeline. Plans were shelved during the national credit crunch in 2008. The U tried again in 2010, but didn't win a national grant for $100 million of the project's cost.

Regent John Frobenius is vocal about the need for the clinic, but said he understands the delay.

"These issues are being dealt with during a time that a number of health care financing issues are up in the air nationally," said the retired hospital administrator. "This project is so important for the continued success of the medical school that it must be done right."

The clinic won't hop back on the capital request later in the year, Pfutzenreuter said. He hasn't given up on state support for the project, though he's not sure what form that might take.

"I'm still creatively trying to work on that."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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