Plans swell for new Sanford facility in Fargo

FARGO -- Sanford's new medical campus has mushroomed on the drawing board in size and scope due to increased patient volumes and expanding medical specialties - pushing its total cost to more than $500 million.

FARGO -- Sanford's new medical campus has mushroomed on the drawing board in size and scope due to increased patient volumes and expanding medical specialties - pushing its total cost to more than $500 million.

The planned size of the new medical center, to be located south of Interstate 94 near Veterans Boulevard, has increased from 371 to 460 hospital beds.

The enlarged center, scheduled for completion in two phases by 2018, has grown from 704,000 to 1.2 million square feet, with an estimated cost of $541 million for both phases, up from the initial $360 million.

Details of the new medical center were outlined Tuesday to The Forum Editorial Board. Site preparation begins with a groundbreaking July 31, with building construction to start next year.

"Our volumes have grown, our admissions have grown, our census has grown," said Dennis Millirons, president of Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.


In recent years, admissions have grown an average of 3 percent annually, but growth over the past year spiked to 9 percent, which Sanford executives said is an unusual uptick.

"It's not one thing, but several that are impacting our growth," said Jeff Sandene, chief operating officer for Sanford's Fargo region.

Physician recruitment is up, and that translates into more patients, he said. So In addition, recent mergers have expanded Sanford's patient base.

"Also, North Dakota has a very robust economy, our population is growing and so is the demand for medical care," Sandene said.

"It increasingly did not make sense," Sanford executives concluded, to stick with the project's original size in light of experienced and projected growth, Millirons said.

In other developments, federal regulators just signed off on the proposed merger between Sanford Health and Medcenter One in Bismarck.

The approval by the Federal Trade Commission now means the last remaining governmental review of the proposed merger rests with North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

If the state gives its OK, which usually is routine after federal approval, the merger likely will take place between August and October, Sandene said.


Assuming the merger is approved, Sanford is looking at expanding air ambulance service based in Bismarck to serve the booming Oil Patch, where trauma cases from the oil field and highway accidents are escalating emergency room visits.

"We'll help support a lot of the organizations that are out there," Sandene said.

In Fargo, Sanford's inpatient space crunch is so acute that it is adding 24 medical beds at its South University Drive campus by this winter, when admissions commonly rise, Millirons said.

Those beds are in wings that have not been in recent use, but already are set up for patients, so no remodeling is required. At its downtown and south campuses, Sanford now staffs a combined 420 to 430 beds.

"We think we are going to be at max capacity by the time we get to 2016," when the $474 million first phase of the new medical center will be completed with 460 beds, Sandene said.

The new center's $67 million second phase, scheduled for completion in 2018, will add more clinical space, with room for 150 physicians, including 30 hospital-based specialists.

During construction, Sanford expects 500 to 600 people will be on the site once the project is fully under way.

More details of the expanded medical center released Tuesday:


  • The trauma center will include 51 emergency department bays. By the time the center opens in 2016, Sanford expects it will qualify as the highest-level trauma center, which requires around-the-clock staffing of trauma surgeons, operating rooms and advanced imaging, services already provided.
  • The center will have 32 operating rooms and 12 catheterization rooms.
  • In its first phase, beginning in 2016, the medical center will have 110 hospital-based physicians in 18 specialties. When the second phase is finished in 2018 the center will have another 150 physicians, including 30 specialists.

Expanding specialized care will enable Sanford to treat more patients locally who now must go to the Twin Cities or the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for treatment.
"We look at how we can keep that care here close to home," Sandene said, adding that studies estimate $200 million a year is lost to patients who leave the area for care.

New efficiencies will help deliver more cost-effective care. Sanford's current downtown medical center, a hodgepodge that evolved over decades, has services and beds scattered in ways that make care cumbersome by comparison, Millirons said.

When plans for the new hospital originally were announced last August, Sanford said the center would have room for 2,700 employees in addition to 200 physicians.

All hospital rooms will offer privacy and a large window, except for intensive care beds. Each room will be equipped with an electrical lift using a ceiling track to help prevent patient falls.

Once the new medical center is completed in 2018, work will begin on remodeling Sanford's downtown campus, which will house an expanded Roger Maris Cancer Center, with 48 hospital beds that could be doubled to 96 beds.

The revamped downtown center also will house Sanford's behavioral health, palliative care and physical rehabilitation programs. A walk-in clinic probably will be included, but there will not be a downtown emergency department.

"We're still on the same track," Millirons said. "Downtown is a viable facility, and we still need it."

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