SUNY hospital plans half-billion dollar expansion

SYRACUSE N.Y.

The State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University wants to embark on a $510 million expansion to create additional classrooms and student housing in downtown Syracuse.

Upstate is looking to buy land and buildings downtown, said Dr. David Smith, Upstate’s president. Smith said the hospital is “very landlocked” in its present location, squeezed next to the Syracuse University campus and the Crouse and Veteran’s Administration hospitals.

The plan also calls for expansion of research facilities and a new outpatient care and teaching center. It also proposes renovating many parts of the existing hospital and constructing a new employee child-care center.

The expansion would happen over the next five to seven years.

“This is a robust agenda which I think is doable and entirely needed,” Smith said.

The expansion is needed to address the growing shortage of doctors and other health professionals in the region, Smith said. To respond, Upstate wants to increase its student enrollment now 1,370 by 30 percent over the next seven years, he said.

Money to pay for two-thirds of the capital plan will come from borrowing and fundraising, Smith said. Upstate wants the state to pay the rest.

Upstate’s plan comes at a time when the state is looking for ways to cut health care spending. A state commission late last year targeted numerous hospitals and nursing homes for closing or consolidation.

That commission called for Upstate’s University Hospital and Crouse to consolidate their operations under a new, non-SUNY governing structure. But the state backed off that recommendation after Upstate and its unions complained the change would lead to the privatization of University Hospital.

The growth plan also comes at a time when a commission appointed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer is studying how the 64-campus SUNY system can be improved.

Currently, Upstate is completing a $119 million, six-story expansion. The top two floors will house the Golisano Children’s Hospital, expected to open in 2009.

Upstate employs 6,700 workers.

– Associated Press



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