Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2008

Staffing delays LMH

March 6, 2008

A scarcity of physicians is delaying Lawrence Memorial Hospital's planned expansion into Eudora.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital President and CEO Gene Meyer said that shortage and not development issues were behind the delay in the hospital's planned campus south of Kansas Highway 10.

LMH attempted to recruit at least two more physicians to staff the 10,000 square foot facility that will sit on 24 acres of land just off of Church Street and White Dog Road at Kansas Highway 10. However, those recruitments did not come to fruition

"The urgency to expand has diminished a little bit until we're closer on recruitment," Meyer said.

Recruitment problems exist nationwide and might continue to do so for the next 15 to 20 years, in Meyer's estimation.

For every physician who retires, it will take 2.5 new physicians to replace them because, in many cases, newer physicians do not want to put in the high hours of their senior colleagues, Meyer said.

"The physician recruitment issue is a complex issue because there are so many great opportunities out there for new physicians coming out of a residency," he said. "Our intention is to find someone just out of their residency, and residency years end in July. So, all of the good folks have made commitments already. Realistically, our recruitment now needs to go after 2009."

The lack of recruits to work in Eudora with longtime-Eudora physician Dr. Dan Dickerson has caused LMH to be able to be more deliberate in other areas.

For instance, LMH staff members have devoted more time to finishing the $50 million expansion of the LMH campus in Lawrence.

Meyer also said he has taken note of adjacent development in Eudora

"We want to make sure that as we submit our final plans to the planning commission and then on to the city that all that is taken into consideration as we move forward so that we can be a complementary facility to the other activity that going on," he said.

The original timetable for construction to begin was early 2008, with doctors moving into the facility in 2009 certainly has been pushed back, as LMH still is in the process of deciding between four architects.

"We want to visit with those four (architects) to find out what level of expertise they bring to a medical office building project in Eudora. And for a variety of reasons, we haven't been able to get those meetings scheduled," Meyer said.

He anticipates meetings will take place in March, with the design process taking about three to four months.

Meyer said it would be optimistic to say the project would physically start in late 2008 or early 2009.

However, Meyer would like to be able to take advantage of currently low construction prices, which were evident in recent low bids received by the City of Eudora for the middle interceptor project.

"The market is good," he said. "Being in the midst of a $50 million project, we want to take advantage of attractive pricing. Even if we get started on bidding things out once the design is done, hopefully we can still take advantage of cost effective and hopefully local contractors."

LMH initially estimated the cost of the project to be between $1.5 million and

$2 million, and they still believe that is what the facility will cost. In fact, $2 million is on the high side because the facility needs to be visible from K-10, which may require changes to the infrastructure of the property, Meyer said.

One thing that hasn't contributed to the delay is the lawsuit brought against Eudora by Rural Water District No. 4. However, it is one more thing for LMH to consider.

"It's a very complex and a very serious issue," Meyer said. "We are very supportive of the community we're serving, but I think it has added a degree of complexity."

All things considered, Meyer said Eudora is still a priority.

"This in no way is any indication of our lack of interest or support for development of medical services in Eudora," he said. "We're absolutely committed to that. Working with Dr. Dickerson, who is an incredible teacher, clinician, and committed individual to Eudora, I have absolutely no doubt that we're going to find the right person or persons to join him.

"With the growth that continues to go on and if housing can turn around a little, I don't think it's going to be long before that community needs to be serviced by three physicians, and we want all three of them to be affiliated with us."

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