The project itself was big news. Marquette General Hospital and Duke LifePoint Healthcare plan to build a new, $290 million 265-bed regional medical center. The only bigger news was the development's possible location - within the city limits of Marquette.
MGH CEO Gary Muller made the announcement to physicians Wednesday evening and to employees and the public Thursday morning.
What could have been the harbinger of bad news for the city - the loss of a key business and an anchor for the center town - became instead the first inkling of a possible construction boom.
Muller said the hospital and Duke LifePoint will hire site consultants and planners to work with the city of Marquette to find the best 30- to 45-acre site within the city. We're pleased to hear the hospital will also work with the city to come up with the best possible use for the current hospital complex adjacent to Northern Michigan University.
We agree with Marquette City Manager Bill Vajda, who said the hospital was " an important part" of the Marquette community. That, in fact, may be a major understatement.
MGH is one of the city's oldest businesses; they're one of the U.P.'s largest employers; they have deep connections and relationships with numerous educational, nonprofit and community groups. It's hard to imagine those links remaining as strong as they are if the hospital were to move out of town.
The new hospital project will take roughly three years to see through from design to construction. Plans for a 168,000-square-foot physician office building adjoining the roughly 600,000-square-foot main hospital structure are also under development. That's a large facility, but actually slightly smaller than the current MGH.
MGH's campus is 800,000 square feet and has a 307-bed capacity. And with patient occupancy running well under capacity, more beds simply aren't needed, Muller said.
While smaller, the new hospital "for the future" will be designed with high technology, efficiency, patient access and comfort built in. That should mean a better overall patient experience and possibly expanded or enhanced medical services, as well.
With potential costs for renovating the current hospital estimated at $230 million, the new structure also may prove to be a more frugal investment in the long term.
Beyond radically upgrading the region's health care capacity, the new project will undoubtedly spur the region's economy. Muller said the hospital was "committed" to hiring locally during construction. The project will certainly be one of the largest single development projects in the area's recent history and one of the biggest drivers of economic growth in years to come.
The new MGH will open an exciting new chapter for health care in our region.
We're looking forward to seeing -and reporting - more details of this story as plans are finalized and the hospital moves from concept to reality.