Banner affirms plans include hospital in initial phase

FORT COLLINS — After weeks of leaving the question unclear, Banner Health officials Monday night finally acknowledged that their plans for a medical campus in Fort Collins will include a hospital.

Phase One of the campus, on which work has yet to start, includes three main components, according to Kip Edwards, vice president of design and construction for Banner.

These components include a diagnostic and treatment facility, which will include an emergency room, a health center, which will house specialists, and the hospital, which could eventually consist of two or three stories.

Banner hopes to break ground on its campus in late 2013 or early 2014, with the facility opening in late 2015 or early 2016, if all goes smoothly.

The company’s plan were made clear at a neighborhood meeting in the area surrounding the proposed location of the campus, along Harmony Road between Lady Moon Drive and Cinquefoil Lane.

The meeting is one of the early steps in the approval process for the development.

Kaiser Permanente, with which Banner announced a partnership late last year, will not have a physical presence on the campus, but its surgeons will be able to perform operations there.

Kaiser’s Fort Collins clinic is located across Harmony Road and just a bit west of the proposed site, in the Harmony Corporate Center in Front Range Village.

Just how many beds might be included at the hospital is not yet known, and what services will be offered is also still being determined.

An exact employee count is uncertain, but the number will be less than 1,000, according to Rick Sutton, CEO of North Colorado Medical Center, a Banner hospital in Greeley.

Banner will take care not to unnecessarily duplicate expensive equipment, according Sutton.

Banner also owns McKee Medical Center, located in Loveland.

Residents who attended the meeting Monday evening raised concerns about the need for another hospital in Fort Collins, which is home to University of Colorado Health-owned Poudre Valley Hospital.

No independent study on the question of whether another hospital is needed in the area has been conducted, according to Edwards, but Banner has conducted its own study.

“We have studied it extensively to make sure the need is there,” Edwards said.

Banner has also conducted studies in its other markets to determine the overall economic impact of building a hospital, and the impact is typically a positive one, Edwards said.

No study has been conducted to evaluate the impact on property values, Edwards said, in response to a question from an attendee.

Residents also voiced concern over increased traffic and noise, particularly from ambulances and helicopters. The campus will include a landing pad for helicopters, but the aircraft will not be parked there, according to Sutton.

Ambulances typically shut off their sirens as they approach a hospital or emergency room, according to Edwards.

Officials also noted that because hospital workers and other health care providers tend to work in three shifts, rather than arriving and departing all at once, the traffic impact would actually be less than if an office employing a similar number of people were to locate there.

Banner submitted its plans to the City of Fort Collins in October, for a nearly 30-acre campus located within the 85-acre Presidio mixed-use project, being developed by Les Kaplan.

At the time, Jim Ferando, president of Banner Health Western Region, issued a statement that left open the question of whether a hospital would be built.

“We have not decided upon any specific facilities to be built at this time, including construction of hospital beds,” Ferando said in the statement. “Development plans will be based upon community need and growth in demand for Banner services through our partnerships with other quality health care organizations like Kaiser Permanente.”

Banner at the time submitted renderings and site plans to the city as part of the conceptual review process. Its plans included two buildings labeled as hospitals but, until Monday’s meeting, Banner officials had remained vague about their intent.  

Banner recently partnered with Kaiser, which opened clinics in Fort Collins and Loveland in October. Kaiser members will be able to access insured hospital care only at Banner hospitals and clinics and Kaiser clinics, except in cases of emergency.

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, marmbrister@ncbr.com or twitter.com/MArmbristerNCBR
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