Archive for Thursday, December 22, 2005

Health care campus coming to city

December 22, 2005

Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle called it the hardest secret he's ever had to keep in his life.

When he heard from officials at Lawrence Memorial Hospital that they were close to sealing a deal to purchase 21-acres of prime development in Eudora to build a medical campus, he was thrilled but couldn't say anything until the deal became official.

The silence ended Friday.

"There are a few things in life that are milestones, and I think this is probably one of them for our community," said Pyle, who expects the new health care options to help the city of about 5,000 people attract both new residential and commercial development.

Pyle said he was thrilled LMH had decided to draw its line in the sand at Eudora. He envisions the center will grow to include space for dentists, eye doctors and other health care professionals.

Gene Meyer, LMH president and CEO, said near-term plans for the property at the southeast corner of K-10 and Church Street included a medical office building that would house LMH-affiliated physicians.

But Meyer said the 21-acre site could grow into a much larger medical complex that would serve the growing K-10 corridor and attract patients from western Johnson County.

"We have left our options open by buying 21 acres," said Meyer, who said pharmacy, physical therapy and radiology services were all possible near-term uses for the site. "Hopefully there will be quite a bit of complementary development that can happen there. It is an exciting day for us. This should send the message to everyone that LMH is truly a regional provider."

That's a message the hospital believes is an important one to send because St. Luke's Health Center, Olathe Medical Center and Shawnee Mission Medical Center all have bought property in western Johnson County along the K-10 corridor. Meyer said LMH didn't want to lose any of its Douglas County patients to Kansas City-area hospitals.

"I guess you could say we're staking our claim to that important area," Meyer said.

Eudora Chamber of Commerce president Angie Miller said she welcomes the opportunity for new business the medical center could deliver.

"I think it's great that we're going to have something else that's going to help people," Miller said. "They don't have to travel to Lawrence if they need medical assistance."

LMH currently has a presence in the city through its ownership interest in Eudora Family Care, which is staffed by Dr. Daniel Dickerson and two nurse practitioners.

Dickerson said the new facility should allow the office to begin offering X-ray services and more therapy services. He said he was also hopeful the growth of the city would allow for an after-hours acute care center that could treat minor emergencies, though Meyer said that wasn't a certainty.

"It is basically at least 20 minutes to any hospital from here, so I think that would really allow us to serve the community better," Dickerson said.

Meyer said construction at the site could begin in late 2006 or early 2007. But first hospital officials plan to take the next six months to do a detailed study of the site and develop a master plan for the property.

LMH board members approved an agreement to buy the land at a special meeting Friday. The agreement is contingent upon a six-month due diligence process that allows the hospital to confirm issues related to land use, zoning and engineering. The board agreed to pay $900,000 for the property, which is currently owned by Carl and Norma Kurtz and is occupied by a farmhouse and outbuildings.

---- Patrick Cady, contributed to this article

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