Hospital rethinks plan for $91M tower as orthopedic cases go outpatient

Wilmington, N.C.-based New Hanover Regional Medical Center wants to dedicate its new $91 million patient tower to heart and vascular procedures instead of orthopedic and spine care, WilmingtonBiz reports.

NHRMC originally proposed using the three-story building, which is under construction on the hospital's main campus, as an orthopedic and spine hospital.

Hospital officials began reevaluating that plan in October because of industry trends.

When plans for the new facility were in their infancy, orthopedic procedures such as total joints were primarily performed in the inpatient setting, NHRMC President and CEO John Gizdic said at a Nov. 13 advisory group meeting.

"By the time we could build that facility, now 20 percent of joints are outpatient. It's projected in the next five years that 60 percent of joint surgeries will be done on an outpatient basis," he said.

Demand for cardiovascular and neuroscience care has also increased since initial plans were made, according to NHRMC marketing director Carolyn Fisher.

Now, hospital officials are examining finances and whether regulatory approval will be needed to change the building's purpose. Before construction on the new patient tower began in mid-2018, NHRMC gained state permission to move 68 beds from its Wilmington-based Orthopedic Hospital to the new facility.

Under the new proposal, orthopedic services would remain based at NHRMC's existing Orthopedic Hospital. The aging facility would be upgraded to accommodate services until NHRMC can build a new hospital for orthopedics. A time frame for that development hasn't been determined.

The patient tower is expected to open next summer, but it could take longer to develop specialized rooms that weren't part of the original plan.

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