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Baltimore’s GBMC begins construction on $166 million expansion project designed to upgrade patient experience

The Greater Baltimore Medical Center broke ground Thursday on two buildings designed to enhance the patient experience at its Towson hospital campus.

Construction has begun on “The Promise Project,” a campaign partially funded by donors that pledges to modernize the 342-bed hospital’s services for the next generation of patients.

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The project includes a three-story, 117,000-square-foot inpatient facility that will replace 60 existing patient rooms and create a new main entrance to the hospital, as well as a two-story, 70,000-square-foot pavilion that will consolidate the hospital’s Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute’s services and specialists under one roof.

A rendering of the new front entrance and patient pavilion for Greater Baltimore Medical Center's expansion in Towson.
A rendering of the new front entrance and patient pavilion for Greater Baltimore Medical Center's expansion in Towson. (Handout/For The Baltimore Sun)

The inpatient facility will cost approximately $108.2 million and will be financed largely through the sale of bonds. Smaller portions will come through philanthropic donations and cash reserves, according to the Maryland Health Care Commission.

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The facility is expected to be completed by mid- to late 2023, and the pavilion, which is in the design phase, should be delivered the following year, hospital officials announced Thursday.

Dr. John B. Chessare, president and CEO of GBMC HealthCare, said in an interview that facility upgrades have been considered a priority for the medical center since he started his tenure at the hospital 11 years ago. But other priorities, such as lowering health care costs and providing advanced primary care services, have dominated.

But Chessare said “push has come to shove” on the construction projects, with the need for an overhaul becoming even more pronounced during the coronavirus pandemic.

The hospital has three types of inpatient rooms outside of the intensive care units, and those used for acutely ill patients, such as those with congestive heart failure and diabetes complications, haven’t been updated since they were built in the 1960s, Chessare said.

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“Today’s rooms are not up to standard for what you need them to do,” he said, noting that the rooms are small and can’t always comfortably fit medical teams, equipment, families and patients.

He said each room will be outfitted with negative airflow to prevent the spillover of infectious diseases into the rest of the hospital, as well as ways for staff members to see patients and transfer supplies without entering or exiting the space.

“The pandemic was really a gift to us because it showed us things like, we should use a replacement system so we can replenish supplies from the outside,” Chessare said.

The consolidated cancer institute, to be named the Sandra R. Berman Pavilion, will co-locate the medical center’s oncologists with services such as genetics, infusion therapy, gynecologic and medical oncology, breast and thoracic surgery and oncology support. It will be situated on top of a new parking structure.

Meanwhile, Chessare said the new front entrance will help patients better navigate the campus and give the hospital a “new face.” The ground floor of the new building will feature retail options, a gift shop and a medical library. Also, the chapel will be relocated to overlook an outdoor “healing garden” in a courtyard developed between the new and existing buildings.

Chessare said he is especially excited about the spacing of the new inpatient rooms, which will be farther apart from one another to offer patients greater privacy. Patients often complain in surveys about noise, Chessare said, and the new construction plan gives the hospital an opportunity to mitigate that problem.

So far, the GBMC Foundation has raised 76% of the campaign’s $50 million fundraising goal, according to the hospital, which includes a large portion donated by the hospital’s board of directors. The project’s total costs are estimated at $166 million.

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