Physicians flock to new office buildings

Friday, September 22, 2006
Southeast Missouri Hospital's new 75,000 square-foot, $15 million Southeast Medical Plaza. (Fred Lynch)

New office buildings at Southeast Missouri Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center are open and admitting doctors.

At Southeast Missouri Hospital, the new 75,000-square-foot, $15 million Southeast Medical Plaza checked in its first occupants in mid-February, said president and CEO James Wente. There are currently 11 doctors in the plaza and two more are scheduled to locate there in September.

At Saint Francis Medical Center, the $17.7 million Health and Wellness Center opened in 2004 as part of the hospital's five-year, $48 million facilities expansion plan.

Officials at both hospitals said the projects were designed to meet the growing clinical demands of area residents and to meet the desires of physicians to have offices more closely aligned with the hospitals.

Southeast Missouri Hospital had considered construction of a medical office building for more than a decade, according to president and CEO James Wente.

"More and more, we see hospitals of this size and scope of services with a medical office building attached," said Wente. "It creates efficiencies for physicians, and it's a convenience for patients. If a physician orders certain procedures or tests to assist in a patient's diagnosis and treatment plan, those services are readily available."

Saint Francis Medical Center's new $17.7 million Health and Wellness Center. (Fred Lynch)

At Saint Francis Medical Center, president and CEO Steven Bjelich said construction of a medical office building was included in the hospital's 2000 Strategic Plan.

"The building plans were revised four times to accommodate the unprecedented need for physician office space," said Bjelich, adding there are currently 24 physicians in the 146,000-square-foot Health and Wellness Center. "

Wente said the idea of "hospitality" and not "hospital" was the basis for the architecture and design of Southeast Medical Plaza. He said visitors to the plaza will see bright walls, soft-toned flooring, multiple wood-toned accents, furniture of clean and classic lines, and large windows.

"Southeast Medical Plaza is, and will continue to be, a very positive point in recruiting new physicians to our area," said Wente, adding that construction of the four-story medical plaza began in December 2003. The project features a pedestrian bridge connecting it with Southeast's Regional Cancer Center and a concourse on the west side that provides a weather-protected link to a 309-vehicle parking garage.

Bjelich said the demand for office space at Saint Francis Health and Wellness Center led to multiple additions to the facility. He said it's important to note that many physicians with offices there have purchased their office space, which further solidifies their commitment to the facility. Others have established long-term leases.

He said that of the 24 physicians who have relocated to the new center, nearly 90 percent are independent practitioners who chose to relocate based on proximity, accessibility and facility amenities.

The first physician practice to relocate to the Health and Wellness Center was Cape Neurosurgical Associates in August 2004, and the most recent was SEMO Otolaryngology. Others located there are Mt. Auburn Medical Group, Regional Primary Care, Cape Gynecologic Oncology, Cape Perinatology Services, Cape Care for Women and Southeast Missouri ENT Consultants.

The 13 physicians at the Southeast Medical Plaza specialize in family medicine, neurology, gastroenterology, cardiology, cardiac and vascular surgery, hematology and neurosurgery. In September, an acute dialysis treatment center, MRI and X-ray services, and a cardiac/pulmonary rehabilitation center are scheduled to open in the plaza, which also houses a retail pharmacy.

"We believe Southeast Medical Plaza is an attractive addition not only to our hospital campus, but to the community," said Wente, adding an extensive landscaping project is currently underway, which will further showcase the new building as well as the Regional Cancer Center and main hospital.

Teresa Bieser, office manager for Mt. Auburn Medical Group, said the group's physicians believe their location in Saint Francis' Health and Wellness Center is perfect for their patients.

"All three physicians are impressed with the convenience this location provides for patient rounding in the medical center," she said.

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