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Patrick Springer, Published January 14 2013

Sanford center price tag trimmed by $50 million

FARGO – Evolving plans for the new Sanford Medical Center now call for a smaller base but an additional floor and a price tag that has been trimmed by more than $50 million.

The size of the new medical center, slated to open in 2016, remains about 1 million square feet and now carries an estimated cost of $494 million for its initial phase.

“We’ve been able to shave some of the cost,” Nate White, chief operating officer of Sanford Health’s Sioux Falls region, who oversees large capital projects, told The Forum Editorial Board on Monday.

Engineering studies showed that reducing the “footprint” of the tower for the new medical center and increasing the number of floors to 11 from 10 will save money. The shape of the center still will resemble an “X” when viewed from above.

“We shrank the base a lot and made it taller than it was,” said Dennis Millirons, president of Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.

Extensive planning since the concept was approved two years ago has refined the center.

“The project we have today is a much better project,” White said.

The updated plans call for a bigger role for Sanford’s downtown campus and a more gradual movement of clinical services to the new medical center.

The downtown campus will have 300 hospital beds to serve patients at the Roger Maris Cancer Center as well as birthing rooms and neonatal intensive care unit. About $50 million is budgeted to renovate the downtown campus over the next 10 years.

The downtown center also will likely have a major walk-in clinic, but emergency services will be housed in the new medical center to be located near the intersection of Interstate 94 and Veterans Boulevard.

Because of the increased role for downtown, demolition of older portions of the complex will be less than earlier plans envisioned, Millirons said.

Meanwhile, the new campus will open with 380 hospital beds. Also, for a time, 70 beds at Sanford’s South University campus will remain in use, for a total of up to 750 beds. That compares to the current 430 beds.

As envisioned before, the South University campus, now used for rehabilitation, behavioral care and palliative care, ultimately will be converted to office use.

Hospital services at the new campus will include a children’s hospital, including pediatric intensive care unit, and a top-level trauma center and emergency department.

Planning for the project will shift from schematic designs to detailed drawings for every room in February, and structural steel for the new center will start going up in March and April, Millirons said.

“We’re really on a track for moving forward in the spring,” he said.

White added: “Between now and midsummer we will have the design documents done. Decisions that are made now are for the most part literally set in concrete.”

The first phase of the new medical center deals with hospital and inpatient services, requiring about 100 physicians, said Dr. Richard Marsden, senior executive vice president for Sanford Clinic in Fargo.

A timetable isn’t yet available for the shift in clinical services, which will be phased in over time, Marsden said.

“I’d love to give you a date but I can’t,” he said. The timing will depend on revenues from ongoing operations.

Many clinical services will remain in existing clinics, such as Southpointe. “People want their clinics just around the corner,” White said.

Over time, more and more services will be consolidated in the new medical center, where investment will exceed $100 million over the first ten years of operation.

Ultimately, a second tower will be built at the new medical center. One role of the new center will be to provide specialized third and fourth-level care, with the goal of eliminating the need to refer patients to specialists in the Twin Cities or elsewhere.

Plans also call for an adjacent hotel to serve patients and families, Millirons said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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