UCHealth to expand Medical Center of the Rockies with new tower

LOVELAND — UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland will expand its number of patient beds by more than 50% with construction of a new tower. 

The hospital group in Northern Colorado will expand its workforce by between 1,200 and 1,400 people with MCR’s addition and other regional expansions.

The $280 million MCR expansion will include a five-story tower just north of the existing five-story hospital adjacent to Interstate 25 in east Loveland. The facility — like the first tower built 15 years ago — will shell in some of the space in order to permit creation of additional patient rooms as conditions require, said Kevin Unger, president and CEO of UCHealth’s north region.

“We thought there would be relief” once the pandemic began to wane, Unger said. But that hasn’t been the case. “Between Greeley Hospital, MCR and Poudre Valley, we’re trying to find additional beds for 30 or 40 patients every day,” Unger said.

He said that UCHealth Greeley Hospital shelled in its fourth floor when it was built in 2019 and by March next year, that floor will be completed with 32 additional patient rooms. 

Expansion of MCR has been in the works for “nine months to a year,” he said. The Level 1 Trauma Center designation received this past summer pushed the hospital organization to move up plans for MCR. 

Highlights of the expansion, in addition to patient rooms, include creation of a comprehensive cancer center, an expanded emergency department, and additional imaging and cardiac spaces. When complete, the project will increase the hospital’s bed capacity from 187 to 283, with room to grow up to 319 beds. New space will total 271,000 square feet plus 20,000 square feet of renovated space in the existing hospital. MCR has 567,200 square feet of space currently.

Unger said that the new facility will include a linear accelerator for cancer treatment. UCHealth has three linear accelerators at the Harmony campus in Fort Collins.

He was unable to cite employee numbers for MCR, but said, “We look at employment on a market level, and in Northern Colorado we have about 8,000 people. We’ll be adding 1,200 to 1,400” with the expansion.

An artist’s sketch shows an interior view of the planned MCR expansion. Courtesy UCHealth.

Noting that finding health care workers has been a challenge throughout the nation — aggravated by the pandemic, retirements of older workers and other factors — Unger said that the hospital group has time to find those additional workers.

“We have a runway to build that workforce,” he said. The expansion is being designed; a contractor has yet to be named. UCHealth wants to break ground in late 2023 and open the tower in 2026. The cancer center part of the project will open in 2024, UCHealth said in a press statement.

“We are excited to expand our offerings in one of the fastest-growing areas of the state and expand patients’ access to our nationally recognized specialists and clinical care teams,” UCHealth president and CEO Elizabeth Concordia said in a written statement. “It is important for us that we continue to meet the needs of the community, both today and into the future.” 

Weld and Larimer counties were among the top five counties for population growth between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Colorado has fewer hospital beds per 1,000 residents than the national average. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that U.S. states average 2.38 beds per 1,000 residents; Colorado has 1.91 beds, the eighth-lowest number among all states and the District of Columbia. The number of beds per 1,000 residents in Northern Colorado was not immediately available today. 

The MCR expansion will include, according to the press statement:   

  • A five-story tower to serve trauma-surgical, medical-surgical and surgical-ICU inpatients, among others. 
  • A cancer center on the first floors of both the north medical office building and the new tower. The new cancer center will feature high-dose radiation therapy, as well as a new gynecological oncology clinic, a new radiation oncology program, including a linear accelerator, and additional medical oncology clinic and infusion space. 
  • The emergency department will grow from 27 to 49 rooms and include a new entrance. 
  • Two electrophysiology labs and two cardiac catheterization labs will be added to the south side of the existing hospital building.
  • Imaging will be expanded with additional CT, ultrasound and MRI services and an additional interventional radiology suite on the east side of the existing hospital building.
  • Parking will be expanded for patients and staff onto what long-time residents of the region will remember was a dog track. UCHealth bought the property at the time of the original MCR construction. 
MCR Rendering Second floor lobby perspective
An artist’s sketch shows a second floor lobby interior view of the planned MCR expansion. Courtesy UCHealth.

Source: BizWest

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