UCMC’s bid for more beds denied

State regulators denied the UCMC’s certificate-of-need to build in the Center for Care and Discovery.

By Sarah Manhardt

State regulators rejected the bid by the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) to fill the empty space in its newest building, the Center for Care and Discovery (CCD), in a preliminary vote on June 14.

The UCMC applied for permission through a Certificate of Need for a $123.5-million project to relocate 154 hospital beds—122 medical-surgical beds and 32 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds—from the Bernard Mitchell Hospital building to the newer CCD. The UCMC also applied to add 12 ICU beds and 31 observation beds and to expand the size of its observation units.

The project would concentrate medical-surgical and ICU beds in the CCD. The third and fourth floors of the $700-million building, which opened February 2013, currently sit empty. This proposal comes only a year after the UCMC reactivated 38 beds in Mitchell Hospital due to increased demand for services.

The application received four votes in favor and two against after a public hearing, failing to meet the five votes required to move the project forward. Three board members were not present at the vote, and the University is entitled to a second hearing and vote. According to a statement released by Lorna Wong, executive director of strategic communications at the UCMC, the University will take advantage of its second hearing, which will probably be in October.

The UCMC’s application stated that the purpose of the project is to meet an increased patient demand for services. The UCMC has had an average 6-percent annual growth rate in medical-surgical daysutilizationsince 2010. The hospital also highlighted that its ICU occupancy, which reaches 80-percent utilization nearly 90 percent of the time, exceeds the state standard.

A report released by the Illinois Department of Public Health recommended rejecting the project due to a lack of justification for the expansion. Hospitals must meet or exceed state occupancy standards, reflected in percentages, for expansions and modernizations to be approved. The Illinois standard for medical-surgical beds’ occupancy is 88 percent, and the report found the UCMC did not meet that standard, with 79-percent occupancy in 2013. The report did note that percentage has risen rapidly, from 70 percent in 2011. The report also found that the proposed isolation units would be too large to conform to state standards.

The UCMC countered that if the current rate of expansion continues, as is expected, the hospital will meet the 88-percent occupancy standard of modernization for projects of its size within two years of the project’s completion. The UCMC also pointed to a lack of ICU beds on the South Side as another reason to expand.

“This project provides an essential, tangible benefit for the community and will help us better treat critically ill patients from the South Side of Chicago and beyond,” the statement reads. “This project aligns with our overarching goal to consolidate our acute-care facilities in order to keep pace with modern medicine in this changing healthcare environment.”

Members of the Trauma Center Coalition attended the public hearing and contested the project in light of the lack of a Level I adult trauma center. Two representatives from the coalition addressed the committee, but the UCMC denied that the group impacted the vote in its statement.