Sinai Hospital will break ground today for the first phase of a long-range expansion that is projected to cost $125 million and dramatically alter the appearance of Baltimore's third largest hospital.
Work will start at noon on the $3.5 million Employee and Physician Resource Center, which will house a 450-seat cafeteria with a self-contained kosher restaurant, physicians' dining room and office suites for three departments.
Additional phases in a preliminary master plan prepared for the hospital include:
* A $15 million emergency center
* An $80 million inpatient facility containing 160 to 215 single-occupancy rooms that would replace semi-private rooms; a glass-roofed central atrium; a separate birthing center and pediatrics wing; and other specialized areas.
* A $30 million outpatient wing.
The hospital's architects, Anshen + Allen of Baltimore and Los Angeles, released a rendering yesterday of a curving, 1,000-foot-long expansion that would rise up to six stories and wrap around the north end of the existing medical complex at 2401 W. Belvedere Ave.
The resource center "is the first phase in a multiphase program to create the hospital of the next century," said Sinai President Warren A. Green. "What you see emerging will be a bit of a teaser for what we hope will take place over a number of years."
The expansion "will give the hospital the flexibility it needs to add new technology as it becomes available," said Lawrence Tarnoff, vice president for marketing. "It will allow the hospital staff to provide efficient care as well as effective care."
Sinai's expansion is part of a local trend in which many hospitals are expanding and upgrading facilities to remain competitive and keep up with advances in health care. Baltimore's two largest medical complexes -- the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and the University of Maryland Medical Center -- each have launched building campaigns of more than $100 million.
Mr. Green said he started the strategic planning process shortly after becoming president in 1991. He said most of Sinai's buildings date from the 1950s and 1960s and are due for an overhaul.
The only construction work authorized so far is for the resource center, which will be built with hospital funds.
The pace of construction on the rest of the expansion will depend on the hospital's ability to raise funds through donations, bond sales or other sources, Mr. Green explained. "I'd like to think that by 1997 or 1998 the project could be substantially complete."
Sinai's board recently authorized the architects to proceed to a more detailed level of design for subsequent phases. Mr. Green said the hospital will work with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore to develop a more detailed fund-raising plan.
In an interview yesterday, administrators said they didn't want to raise undue expectations about the pace of the project and preferred to focus attention on the first phase. But they explained that they launched a long-range planning process because they wanted the hospital to be in a good position to grow and meet the needs of its primary service area, which includes the communities of Mount Washington, Pimlico and Lower Park Heights.
"What we asked the architects to do was to make the project very stage-able, with a series of modules that would allow us to grow into them," Mr. Green said. "Any good hospital is doing this, because health care facilities can get outdated very quickly and if you don't have a plan for your physical plant you can lose the ability to fulfill your mission."
The expansion is designed to be built in independent phases over the next five to 10 years, as needs arise and funds permit, said architect Lee Coplan. Once the new phases are completed and occupied, older portions of the hospital will be renovated for continued use, he explained.
About 14 percent of the current hospital will have to be demolished to make way for new construction. The addition will hide much of the rest of the complex like a slipcover and be highly visible to drivers on Northern Parkway and Belvedere Avenue. "It will be a new image for Sinai," Mr. Coplan said.
Started in 1866 as Hebrew Hospital and Asylum and located for many years on Monument Street near the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Sinai moved to its present 66-acre campus in 1959.
Sinai has 1,100 doctors on staff, including 125 full-time, and a total of 3,200 employees -- making it one of Baltimore's largest employers. Authorized to operate 466 beds -- a figure that will not change as a result of the expansion -- the hospital admits 20,000 patients and serves about 50,000 outpatients annually.
Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. of Towson is the construction manager for the first phase, which will be complete by early 1994. Mr. Green said it is no coincidence that the hospital is beginning the expansion with improvements for the staff.
"It symbolizes the board's and management's deep-seated belief that, in the new Sinai, we must invest in our employees and physicians first," he said. "We're trying to say to the doctors and nurses and rest of the staff that they are very important."
Baltimore's Design Advisory Panel reviewed preliminary plans last month and responded favorably. Before the hospital may proceed with the larger expansion, officials must receive City Council approval of a revised land-use plan. Mr. Coplan said legislation is being drafted now and likely will be introduced in the fall.