Saint Francis plans medical complex in Butler County

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Business Today

POPLAR BLUFF -- Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau intends to build a new medical campus here as part of a new alliance with doctors in the Poplar Bluff area. A 50-bed hospital would be part of the complex.

"We've always considered Poplar Bluff an important part of our service area," said Saint Francis CEO Steven Bjelich. "That's why we're devoting resources and manpower to it."

The partnership between the Catholic hospital and Physicians Advanced Health Care Group, LLC, was announced Jan. 3.

The health-care center is planned for the northern part of the city on the northwest corner of the intersection of the Highway 67 bypass and Route PP in a 32-acre area called Physicians Park.

The project would include a diagnostic imaging center, an ambulatory surgery center, a medical office building and the hospital. Under the agreement, the physicians' group would own 70 percent and Saint Francis would own the rest.

The new medical complex would compete with an existing hospital, Three Rivers Health Care Center. Members of the 39-member doctor's group said since the former Lucy Lee and Doctors hospitals were purchased by Tenet Health Care System and merged into Three Rivers, the patients haven't been receiving the medical care they deserve.

Jeffery Bush, CEO of the physicians' group, said the doctors are responding to a community need. Many patients are leaving the community because sufficient care is not available, said Bush.

Tim Brady, CEO of Three Rivers, said that he would not respond directly to claims that Three Rivers is not meeting health care needs in Poplar Bluff and the surrounding area.

Three Rivers opened a new intensive care unit in June and a women's health-care center for labor and delivery. The emergency room has been tripled in size, and outpatient and other same-day services continue to expand, said Brady. He said Three Rivers recently recruited the area's only cardiovascular surgeon.

Bjelich said he learned of an unmet need through the physicians group and was approached by doctors and clergy.

"But this isn't really about Tenet or any other provider," he said. "This is about a group of physicians seeking a partner to develop a medical campus to meet the needs of their patients."

Bjelich said the next step is to complete a definitive agreement on the collaboration. The partnership would then be in a position to complete design work on the medical campus, including the hospital.

The group will apply for a certificate of need, which is considered by the Missouri Health Facilities Review Commission, a group made up of state representatives and senators. The commission is charged with ensuring no unnecessary duplication of services in an area.

Bush said the group hopes to be in a position to build the facility by the end of the year or early 2003. He said members may continue to send patients to Three Rivers if they choose.

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