On Monday, UR Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Bradford Berk, M.D. announced a proposed expansion for Strong Memorial Hospital. URMC is submitting an application this week requesting permission from the New York State Department of Health to increase the licensed bed capacity from 739 to 862 beds by creating a six-story tower that will house, among other things, adult and pediatric beds as well as two imaging science floors. The project will be the largest clinical expansion in the history of Strong.

The project is known as Pediatric Replacement and Imaging Sciences Modernization, or PRISM. The PRISM tower will be a six-floor, 330,000 square foot structure, and the foundation will be built such that an additional three floors can be added on top at a later date. There will be space for 56 beds on each of the top two floors, and all of the new rooms created will be private rooms. Additionally, the fifth floor, to be used for pediatrics, will connect to the current Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

With the space vacated after the Golisano Children’s Hospital moves into the new tower, Strong will create an additional 67 adult beds. This, along with the 56 adult beds on the top floor, gives the 123-bed increase. The tower is expected to be completed in 2012 and the whole project should be finished by 2014. The estimated cost of the project is approximately $250 million.

The tower will be built on a space on the north side of URMC, just west of the Emergency Department. Some of this space is currently occupied by parking lots and administrative and maintenance offices. The offices will be demolished as part of the construction process.

The project stems from a need for extra space at the hospital. According to the PRISM Web site, Strong operates at 103 percent capacity on any given day. This means that between 40 and 60 patients wait in the Emergency Department for vacant beds. In addition, the closing of beds at St.

Mary’s Hospital and The Genesee Hospital, two area hospitals, has exacerbated the need for an increase in bed space at Strong.

“Increasing demands for beds due to our concentration of high intensity services such as complex surgical care, transplant and trauma, as well as an aging population, routinely cause us to exceed our current bed capacity,” Berk said. “Nearly everyone knows someone who has been admitted here who’s had to endure long stays in our Emergency Department waiting for an inpatient bed. That’s simply not acceptable for our community or region.”

In addition to approval from the state, the project must also be approved by the UR Board of Trustees. Planning will begin while these approvals are still pending, with construction slated to begin in 2009.

“This project is an important element of an orchestrated University strategy not only to propel this institution to new heights, but also to meet our responsibility to play an active role in reshaping Rochester’s economic future,” chair of the UR Board of Trustees Robert Witmer Jr. said. “We have exciting days ahead and this project is a major step forward for the University of Rochester and our community.”

Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.

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