University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health plans to open by 2020 a new medical center in Havre de Grace and expand its Bel Air hospital, an ambitious $180 million proposal that its president and CEO calls "transformational" for Harford and Cecil counties.
The plan is geared to better serving behavioral health needs of both Harford and Cecil county residents, while also providing greater outpatient and community-based health services, Lyle Sheldon, the Upper Chesapeake CEO explained.
The centerpiece of the plan is to build a 194,000-square-foot hybrid medical center on a portion of a 97-acre site near the I-95/Route 155 interchange in Havre de Grace that Upper Chesapeake has owned for several years and previously planned to develop into a medical campus and office/retail center.
The University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center – Havre de Grace would have a fully staffed emergency room and ambulatory care services, such as diagnostic testing, imaging, a laboratory and a up to a dozen short stay observation beds. It would be different from a traditional hospital, however, and would not provide specialty surgical services.
The facility will also have a secure and adjoining treatment area with 40 inpatient beds and outpatient services for adults with mental illness or substance abuse issues.
""Services offered will include observation beds for short-stay medical patients, emergency services, imaging (CT, MRI, ultrasound, radiology, nuclear medicine), cardiology testing, pharmacy, lab and public education/conference space in addition to rehab (physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy), chemotherapy/infusion, mammography/bone density, physician office space and prevention/wellness services," Upper Chesapeake said in a statement.
"An important element to the new medical campus will be an emphasis on wellness and fitness through partnerships with Maryland University of Integrative Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry, Healthy Harford and other health-related services," the statement continued. "A walking/jogging/biking trail will be built on the campus for use by patients, team members and the general community as part of an ongoing commitment to improve the mind, body and spirit of those we serve in our community."
The new medical center will occupy approximately 45 acres on the 97 site, where Sheldon said there will be room for future expansion of the facility and for additional parking as needed. Most of the remainder of the property will be used for future commercial and retail development.
Once the new medical center is completed, Upper Chesapeake plans to close Harford Memorial Hospital in downtown Havre de Grace, a 103-year-old institution whose physical plant ranges in age from 72 to 34 years in age. The facility has 84 beds, 25 which are for behavioral health patients.
UCH will work with a private firm, as well as the City of Havre de Grace, Harford County and the state to find a new use for the 279,400 square-foot Harford Memorial Hospital property, nine acres at South Union Avenue and Revolution Street.
UCH also will spend an estimated $62 million to expand its Bel Air hospital, which is on the 50-acre Upper Chesapeake Medical Center campus on Route 24. The expansion will involve adding 32 medical/surgical beds through the addition of three more floors to the two-story Kaufman Cancer Center building that opened in 2013.
The additional beds would provide for the expansion of specialty surgical services offered at the Bel Air hospital – gastrointestinal, neurosurgery, vascular, thoracic, cardiac – replacing the surgical beds being eliminated in Havre de Grace. Schneider, a vascular surgeon, said it makes sense to concentrate those services at a single location, both for better outcomes and because "doctors want to be where other doctors are."
Consideration is also being to expanding the Bel Air hospital's emergency facilities and building a second parking garage on the campus, Sheldon said.
"It's a vision, it's a journey, and I think it's a tremendous amount of progress for health care here in [Harford] County," he said.
Meeting Wednesday morning with editors and reporters from The Aegis, Sheldon and Upper Chesapeake Board Chairman Dr. Roger Schneider said the proposal addresses both the community's unmet health needs and the changing face of health care services.
"It's about integration and cooperation," Schneider said, noting that they have been working closely with elected officials in Harford County and its municipalities, state legislators and officials with Union Hospital in Elkton, which has agreed to transfer its 15 licensed behavioral health beds to the new Havre de Grace facility.
Upper Chesapeake is part of the University of Maryland Medical System and Union Hospital has an affiliation with the University of Maryland Medical System, Sheldon said.
Because of the hybrid nature of the proposed Havre de Grace facility, Sheldon said, state legislation is needed to alter a current legal ban on having overnight beds at an ambulatory care facility. A bill to address the change was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly Tuesday.
"This plan positions us to set the future," he said.
"We are putting our best foot forward to serve the needs of this community at this time and for the next 20 to 30 years," Schneider said. "You have to think ahead."
Sheldon said they want to complete both the Havre de Grace and Bel Air projects in the next four years, conceding that negotiating the state regulatory process for both could take well over a year.
According to Sheldon Upper Chesapeake employs about 3,200 people, 75 percent of whom live in Harford County and about 9 percent in Cecil County. He said the organization's estimated economic impact exceeds $2 billion annually.