On the eighth floor of a parking garage Tuesday, officials of UC Health kicked off a $221 million expansion Tuesday that will double the size of the emergency department at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the region’s main trauma center and a key battleground of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Dignitaries and observers met in the garage on Albert Sabin Way because it overlooks the expansion zone in the heart of UCMC. One four-story expansion will renovate the emergency department, which has not seen an upgrade in 30 years. A second four-story structure will house eight operating rooms.
Instead of digging into the earth itself, the officials broke ground for the project in a trough of dirt set up on the garage floor.
Here are five things to know about the project in Corryville.
How soon will it open?
The buildings are scheduled to be completed in late 2023 and ready for patients in early 2024, said UC Health spokeswoman Amanda Nageleisen. When completed, the construction will reconfigure the UC Medical Center, which the nonprofit UC Health runs. She said the pandemic did not slow the progress of the project.
In fiscal year 2020, UC Health counted more than 114,000 emergency department visits and more than 8,100 transfers from other hospitals.
How much will it cost?
UC Health unveiled its $221 million “Forward” project in October 2019, a five-year renovation across the medical center’s 14 acres and the largest in the system’s history. The money for the project will come from UC Health’s coffers, some financing and philanthropy.
The project’s crowning aim is to build a nation-leading critical care unit, said Dr. Arthur Pancioli, chairman of the emergency medicine department at the UC College of Medicine, said at Tuesday’s groundbreaking.
“What can you expect from this? Expect the best of the best,” said Pancioli. “I don’t mean the best emergency room in the city. When completed and open, this truly will be the finest emergency facility in the United States.”
The emergency department, which sees the most critical burns, trauma and injury, will go from 36,000 to 76,000 feet, Pancioli said. The rooms will be bigger, with more privacy and more room for family members helping with a loved one. The entry will be redesigned to better move patients into the hospital.
The new emergency department would grow by three floors for an observation unit and intensive care. Another floor would go to inpatient care, and a top floor is set up to allow for growth. Other plans include the $40 million building for eight more operating rooms and clinical space.
Infrastructure and other costs are estimated at $31 million. UC Health also is spending $30 million to upgrade the main hospital lobby and improve signage.
More than $1 billion in construction spending just for medical buildings has poured into Pill Hill, the region’s medical nexus on the sweeping heights of Corryville.
In addition to Tuesday’s groundbreaking, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center will cut the ribbon Sept. 27 on its expansion into Avondale, a $600 million critical care tower that's the largest construction project in Hamilton County since Paul Brown Stadium in 2000.
In 2018, UC Health opened its new UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, a $68 million dedicated unit on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard adjacent to UCMC. In 2015, In 2015, Cincinnati Children’s erected a 15-story science tower.
What’s the value?
The emotional high point of Tuesday’s ceremony arrived when Officer Kristina Holtman of the Cincinnati police recounted how on Jan. 11, 2006, a suspect shot her in the face, and she was brought to UCMC’s emergency department, where the care team saved her life. In the following 15 years, Holtman said, she has returned to UCMC for follow-up care “I have received the best treatment anyone could ask for,” she said.
“Trust me, this is where you want to be when you’re facing a life-changing event. These are the best doctors there are,” Holtman said. To a standing round of applause, the doctors and nurses who have cared for Holtman presented her with a large bouquet.