Regions Hospital officials said they will seek approval from the medical center’s board of directors early next year for a new birth center, with construction on the campus of the St. Paul hospital possibly beginning in the spring.
It’s the latest development in a Twin Cities maternity market that has seen two hospitals close maternity units in recent years while others invest in new centers for mothers and babies.
Regions officials said the proposal on obstetrics (OB) is distinct from the hospital’s push for the state to expand its count of licensed hospital beds by more than 20 percent, although the request includes some new beds for maternity care.
“We probably have the oldest OB unit in town,” said Megan Remark, Regions’ chief executive, during an interview this week. “Given the market demands and the consumer demands and preferences for OB, we want those rooms to be bigger. So, we are doing an evaluation of a new birth center.”
Just down the street from Regions, St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul closed its maternity unit in September. The Allina Health System in 2015 announced it would move maternity care from Unity Hospital in Fridley to nearby Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids.
At the same time, Allina has launched three new “Mother Baby” centers at its hospitals since 2013, including at United Hospital in St. Paul. In 2015, the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis started promoting completion of a $21 million renovation at its Birthplace maternity ward.
At Regions, hospital officials said this week that a price tag for the new birth center hasn’t been set. Construction would begin this spring, with plans for completing the new facility by 2020.
It would be built on the eastern edge of the hospital’s campus, where there’s now a loading dock for large trucks delivering supplies.
“Regions is replacing its existing birth center to update the facility, expand the size of the birthing suites and increasingly meet the needs of today’s moms and families,” the hospital said Thursday in a statement. “This project is currently in the planning and design phase and will be presented to the Regions hospital board for their consideration in early 2018.”
Nursery admissions have declined slightly in recent years at Regions, falling from 2,481 admissions in 2013 to 2,429 admissions last year, according to hospital financial statements. The request seeking state approval for 100 new licensed beds includes 20 for the maternity unit, but officials said most would be replacing beds that don’t now count against the hospital’s current cap of 454 licensed beds.
The request for more licensed beds ultimately will be considered by the Legislature and includes just two new maternity beds.
“We are not assuming major growth from [St. Joseph’s Hospital],” Regions said Thursday in a statement. “Our model was built solely on the population projections. That said, we would like to be sure we have the capacity to serve any moms who would have chosen St. Joe’s who would like to stay close to home.”
Through the first three quarters of 2017, Regions posted operating income of $39.7 million on revenue of $582 million. The medical center is one of the 10 largest hospitals in Minnesota in terms of licensed beds and is operated by Bloomington-based HealthPartners.