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Mayo gets final OK for Florida hospital

By Jeff Hansel

jhansel@postbulletin.com

Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is part of a burgeoning hospital building boom.

The clinic has received final clearance for construction of a 700,000-square-foot, $226 million hospital on the clinic campus.

"Staff are excited. This is so important in the eyes of the clinicians," said Bob Walters, project administrator.

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Rick Wade, senior vice president of the American Hospital Association, said hospital construction is robust nationwide.

"This is probably the largest period of hospital construction in two decades. You've got a lot of hospitals that are reaching the end of their useful life," Wade said.

Previous delay

Construction of the Mayo hospital in Jacksonville first was approved in 2001, but legal hearings and appeals by another hospital delayed the project.

Mayo had to wait to sell St. Luke's Hospital to local St. Vincent's until all certificates of need were approved. The sale is expected to close July 1 and work on the new facility is under way.

"We've already begun some of the utility infrastructure work," Walters said. Site preparation is expected to last through fall, with erection of steel beginning by early winter.

"Our target date for opening the new facility would be February of 2008," Walters said. Mayo Clinic staff currently travel about 12 miles between the clinic and St. Luke's.

"It's connected by a road not unlike (U.S.) 52," Walters said. The difference, he said, is that Jacksonville has a population of about 1.1 million people.

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"Traffic can be a bit more of an issue at times than in Rochester," he said.

Three certificates of need were required, and the final appeal ended in April.

Project funds

"The source of funds for the new hospital are essentially the proceeds from the sale of St. Luke's hospital, plus the philanthropic gifts that have been raised over the course of the past three years," Walters said. He said there will be some debt left over after sale of St. Luke's.

But "all but a very, very small portion" of the project is from philanthropic gifts, Walters said. That "allowed Mayo to support other strategic needs across the organization, such as research and education," he said.

Hospital design

Rooms at St. Luke's are now 140 to 150 square feet. At the new Mayo hospital, they will be almost double that. Every room will be identical in size and layout to decrease the chance for injury of staff.

Rooms at the Jacksonville hospital also are flexible. They have been designed so equipment can be taken inside patient rooms, an increasingly common practice. It's similar to what's being done with other hospitals nationwide.

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In Jacksonville, Doctors in training will be able to enter patient rooms as a group, Walters said, decreasing the chance of conversation about a patient's condition being heard in the hallway. The hospital, he said, is expected to open in "paperless mode" and the clinic is already using electronic medical records.

"We're really trying to design the facility around the patient and the patient experience," he said.

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