New ‘Lutheran Downtown Hospital’ will replace St. Joseph Hospital in 2021

The new Lutheran Downtown Hospital will replace St. Joseph Hospital. (Courtesy image)
The new downtown hospital will bring a new look to the Main Street-Broadway area. (Courtesy image)
St. Joseph Hospital's owners are looking for an alternative site for a replacement. (News-Sentinel file photo)
The former St. Joseph nurses' dormitory wil be torn down as part of the project. (News-Sentinel.com file photo by Kevin Leininger)
Mike Poore

It’s been more than a year since Lutheran Health Network officials announced plans to build a replacement for St. Joseph Hospital, a fixture at Broadway and Main Street in downtown Fort Wayne since 1869. It took longer than expected, but Wednesday they made good on that commitment.

The new $120 million, 60-bed acute care hospital to be called “Lutheran Downtown Hospital” will be built at the southwest corner of Main and Van Buren across the street from the current hospital on property now used for physician and employee parking.

“Long before the notion of ‘downtown revitalization’ began to materialize nearly a decade ago, Lutheran Health Network was already turning vision into reality through the ongoing modernization of St. Joseph Hospital and its campus,” LHN CEO Mike Poorse said in a statement. “As we look to the future of healthcare and how it will be delivered in and around the heart of the city, this new facility will serve as a springboard to bigger and better things.”

The planned size of the facility reflects the shift to more outpatient services but will be designed to allow growth to more than 100 beds. Construction of the five-floor, 181,000-square-foot hospitals is expected to begin in summer 2019 with completion in late 2021. Upon completion, Lutheran Downtown will include a 19-bed emergency department, a six-suite OR, three cardiac catheterization labs, two gastroenterology suites, hyperbaric medicine, wound care, imaging services including MRI and CT, robotic-assisted surgery, laboratory services and the regional burn center.

The September 2017 announcement of plans for a replacement hospital came after more than a year of planning and discussion that involved Lutheran Health Network, St. Joe physicians and administrative leaders and hospital board members. Lutheran officials noted that the current facility, which has gone through many physical changes over the years, has limitations that make it more difficult to add today’s medical advancements and create an optimal environment for staff to deliver the experience patients need and expect. At time time, construction was expected to begin in 2018.

The attached medical office building, which was expanded in 2008 and the parking garage will continue to be used once the new hospital opens. At that time, the old building will be razed for additional parking. The vacant plaza office building, which once housed the school of nursing, will also be razed.

The project is in contrast to recent trends within Lutheran Health Network’s Tennessee-based parent company, Community Health Systems. CHS last month announced plans to sell four hospitals in South Carolina as part of its plan to reduce long-term debt of more than $13.5 billion.debt. CHS, which reported $15.4 billion in operating revenue last year, said in July it had sold seven hospitals so far this year and had definitive agreements to sell five more. This year’s contemplated divestitures account for about $2 billion in revenue, CHS said.

CHS’ third-quarter revenue dropped 5.9 percent from the prior-year period to $3.45 billion primarily because it sold 15 hospitals. Net operating revenue per hospital increased by 2.3 percent, however, and the company reduced its long-term debt by $345 million from the same quarter of 2017. Total admissions fell 12.4 percent below the prior-year period, but taking into account the reduction in hospitals total admissions dropped only 2.3 percent.

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