New Poplar Bluff hospital one step closer to reality

Saturday, September 7, 2002

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- A proposed new 50-bed hospital in Poplar Bluff is another step closer to reality.

"We have had a great deal of community support and physician support and encouragement," said Steven C. Bjelich, president of Saint Francis Healthcare System.

St. Francis Healthcare System, the parent corporation for St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, announced Wednesday it has acquired 30 percent of Physicians Advanced Health Care Group, LLC, and has purchased 20 acres here at Physicians Park -- thereby taking one of several legal steps to build the new hospital.

In January, the two groups announced a joint venture to collaborate in building a medical campus. PAHCG is a group of 39 Poplar Bluff physicians.

Plans for Physicians Park, at the intersection of the U.S. Highway 67 bypass and PP Highway, include the existing diagnostic imaging center, an ambulatory surgery center, a diagnostic cardiac catheterization lab, a radiation oncology center, a medical office building and the hospital, Bjelich said.

The Imaging Center opened its doors last fall. Ground has been broken and construction is underway on the ambulatory surgery center, and Bjelich said he expects the cardiac catheterization lab will open its doors in January 2003.

"We are in the process of purchasing equipment for the diagnostic cardiac catheterization lab," Bjelich said, noting that the lab will probably set up initially in a mobile unit, then move to more permanent digs after a building is constructed.

Current plans are to have all the other proposed projects in place before the group files for a certificate of need with the state -- a requirement before the hospital can be constructed.

"We want to be sure that we will have all our services up and running that later will support the hospital," Bjelich said.

Obtaining the certificate of need could prove to be a stumbling block.

"I'm very confident that Tenet Healthcare Corporation most likely will oppose us in the development of competition in the Poplar Bluff community,"

Bjelich said, noting that the joint venture is currently in the process of "documenting the need for a competing hospital in the Poplar Bluff community."

Tenet Healthcare Systems owns the Three Rivers North and South Campus hospitals in Poplar Bluff. The only other hospital in town is the John J. Pershing Veterans Administration Medical Center.

According to a statement released by Saint Francis, construction of the hospital portion of the campus is expected to start in 2003.

Saint Francis is a full-service, tertiary care, 249-bed regional medical center in Cape Girardeau. PAHCG was formed in August 2000 with the mission of improving the quality of health care in Poplar Bluff. Physician specialties include radiology, urology, neurology, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, family practice, pathology, internal medicine, oncology, anesthesiology and general surgery.

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