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Provident Hospital would need $52M upgrade to link with U of C Med Center

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Crain's Chicago Business
by Mike Colias

(Crain’s) — Cook County’s Provident Hospital would need as much as $52 million in capital improvements to expand services under a potential partnership with University of Chicago Medical Center, according to an outside report released Wednesday.

County health officials this month said they were exploring a pact that would have U of C doctors treat patients at 172-bed Provident, while the county would continue to own and manage the South Side facility.

Cook County Health and Hospitals System CEO Bill Foley is considering options for Provident — everything from closing the hospital to expanding services there — as part of a broader strategic plan to fix the troubled health system. Staffing U of C physicians at Provident would improve the quality of care and the hospital’s spotty reputation.

Provident also could play a major role in U of C’s Urban Health Initiative, a four-year-old effort to offload routine cases so the Hyde Park medical center can focus on specialized care.

The price tag to keep Provident as a full-service hospital is between $38 million and $52 million, according to a report done for the county and U of C by Philadelphia-based consultancy Health Strategies & Solutions Inc. That would pay for a new medical office building, upgrades to its diagnostic imaging equipment and basic infrastructure repairs to the facility at 500 E. 51st St.

(Read Health Strategies & Solutions' 32-page report here.)

County officials also are considering converting Provident into an outpatient facility, which would cost $18 million to $27 million.

U of C has “significantly less interest” in seeing Provident become an outpatient center, the report said. University officials worry that closing Provident’s beds and converting its emergency room into an urgent-care center would put more pressure on services at U of C, according to two people familiar with the planning process.

Boosting patient volumes and bringing in more patients with health coverage under a U of C partnership could help Provident trim operating losses by $30 million to $45 million, the report says. The hospital lost $98 million on operations last year (not including an undisclosed amount of federal aid the hospital received for treating high numbers of indigent patients).

It’s unclear where capital funding would come from, although U of C officials have said they likely would contribute. Last year, U of C lined up $5 million in state capital funding for Provident.

“We understand the county is considering the future of Provident Hospital, including its possible closure," U of C Medical Center President Kenneth Sharigian said in a statement. “While recognizing there are significant issues to deal with and overcome, we continue to be committed to exploring ways we can help the hospital stay open and keep serving the community.”

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