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Presbyterian plans new 11-story tower for patients

A rendering of Presbyterian Hospital’s planned $230 million 11-story tower, which is expected to add at least 144 new patient rooms to the hospital. (Rendering courtesy of Presbyterian)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Presbyterian Healthcare Services announced plans Wednesday to build the tallest tower yet on its original, 111-year-old hospital campus.

Clay Holderman, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Presbyterian, said the new 11-story, 135-foot building at Presbyterian Hospital, which is expected to be completed in 2022, will reduce wait times and improve the experience at the aging hospital for patients and their loved ones.

“You’ll see a lot of changes that will make the stay more pleasant for families, and more curative for patients,” Holderman said.

All told, the multi-phase expansion is expected to cost $230 million, Melanie Mozes, director of communications for Presbyterian, told the Journal.

Holderman said parts of the hospital, located on Central Avenue NE just east of Interstate 25, are more than 60 years old, but that even sections of the current, newer campus are starting to show their age.

Additionally, the population served by the hospital is growing and aging. While growth stagnated during the Great Recession, a study produced by the Mid-Region Council of Governments notes that New Mexico is still expected to add 300,000 new residents by 2040, two-thirds of whom are expected to land in central New Mexico.

“While moderated, it is still critical that we plan for future growth, and its impact on mobility, land use and the economy,” the study reads.

Holderman added that the population of the region has continued to age, which results in more – and more complicated – trips to the hospital. As medical technology has evolved, Holderman said the hospital sees patients who have survived cardiac issues and strokes that likely would have been fatal three decades ago.

“That creates more complexity in care,” he said.

With more patients, Holderman said hospital administrators have seen higher wait times than they would like, with bottlenecks during busy times of day.

Presbyterian is anticipating the number of in-patient hospital visits to increase by 15% over the next 10 years. Even with the planned expansion of University of New Mexico Hospital, which includes 48 additional hospital beds, Holderman said more beds will be needed in the Albuquerque area in the coming years.

“With the projected 15% increase in hospital-based services, both organizations must invest in ensuring that the community has access to care, close to home,” Holderman wrote.

While Holderman said Presbyterian has spent the past decade focusing on expanding care outside of hospitals, he said the health care provider’s board saw the need to add more traditional hospital beds.

At least 144 new patient rooms are part of the tower’s design, which will expand the total number of rooms at the hospital to 656, an increase of more than 25%. Adding capacity gives the hospital a chance to reduce wait times and house patients in more modern rooms. Unlike at the current facility, all of the new patient rooms will be private, Holderman said.

The 335,000-square-foot tower will be situated directly south of the existing hospital, which Holderman said will help doctors move between the two facilities easily while reducing impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. Plans call for wider hallways, rooftop gardens and more open space in the new facility. The expansion also doubles the size of the emergency room waiting area.

Presbyterian is also planning a new three-story parking structure on the eastern edge of the campus to support the hospital’s increased capacity and make up for parking spaces lost when the new tower is constructed. Holderman said the parking garage will create a net increase of about 800 spaces for the hospital.

Mozes said Presbyterian is planning to submit plans to the city of Albuquerque by the end of July. She said she expects construction to start by fall.

Work will begin on the parking structure first, followed by the new tower. Once the new tower is completed, Holderman said the hospital intends to renovate the existing patient facilities, bringing them up to the standard of the rooms in the new tower. Presbyterian expects the overall project to take around four years to complete.

“By 2023, Presbyterian will be 100% single rooms,” Holderman said.

Albuquerque is currently served by three major hospitals – Presbyterian, UNM Hospital and Lovelace Medical Center.

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