About $48 million in construction work is underway to expand, improve and update services for Springfield Clinic patients needing pediatric, laboratory and imaging services, clinic officials say.
"At the end of the day, this is all driven by the patients," Tom Fitch, vice president of facilities, real estate and construction, told Illinois Times. "It all comes back to listening to the patient."
The clinic's pace of construction – which includes a new $20 million pediatric center, a new $17 million medical laboratory and an $11 million, four-story addition to the main campus on South Sixth Street – hasn't slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
The scope of the work involving the clinic is in line with other major projects that have taken place over the past two decades, Fitch said. He cited the clinic's partnerships with hospitals in Springfield, Jacksonville, Taylorville, Lincoln and Macomb to expand physician office space and outpatient services since 2000.
Springfield Clinic is a physician-led, multispecialty medical group based in Springfield with more than 650 doctors and advanced practitioners that serves more than 20 counties in central Illinois. The clinic is a privately held business that doesn't disclose its annual revenues, and it is one of the few major health care providers in the Springfield area that isn't tax-exempt.
The clinic will pay $2.8 million in real-estate taxes in 2022, $2.3 million of which represents properties in Sangamon County, clinic spokesman Zach Kerker said.
The most recently announced project is a new two-story, 40,000-square-foot, pediatrics building that will be built on a former farm field at 3500 Conifer Drive on Springfield's west side. The $20 million project, to be completed in fall 2023, will create a more "family friendly" and "child-focused" environment for pediatric patients and their families, Fitch said.
The design of the building – which will include 60 new exam rooms, an on-site lab and pediatric urgent care area – will reduce fear and stress for the increasing number of children being treated for certain illnesses such as childhood diabetes, Fitch said.
The building will consolidate pediatrician offices currently on the second floor of Springfield Clinic Wabash, 2200 W. Wabash Ave., and the Springfield Clinic Pediatric and Adolescent Center, 2532 Farragut Drive. The offices that are vacated at the Wabash location will provide more space for other clinic doctors, Fitch said. The clinic hasn't decided what will happen to the Farragut Drive location.
The need for additional space is a trend fueling other construction work as the clinic adds doctors and associated providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, Fitch said.
The additional space, paired with personnel and equipment, will allow the clinic to reduce wait times for services, Fitch said.
A growing demand for certain services is related to both medical technology that helps people live longer and to the aging of the "baby boom" generation of people in their late 50s through mid-70s, he said.
"There's not excess capacity in this market," he said.
Newer facilities also help Springfield Clinic recruit and retain doctors and other health care professionals to central Illinois, Fitch said.
Springfield Clinic's statements about the importance of preserving and improving health care in the region have been in the news in recent months during the clinic's ongoing contract dispute with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. The dispute resulted in the clinic's doctors and other health care providers no longer remaining in Blue Cross' preferred-provider network after November 2021.
Kerker has said Blue Cross is "undervaluing our market to increase its own profits" in contract negotiations, while Blue Cross officials say reimbursement rates charged by the clinic are too high.
Fitch said the clinic's construction projects in central Illinois benefit patients and add to the property tax base, lessening the tax burden on homeowners in the long run. Additionally, the purchase of materials for the $48 million in projects will generate more than $2.3 million in local and state sales taxes, Kerker said.
The construction also fuels the economy through local jobs for construction workers, he said. For example, a news release from the clinic says the pediatrics building will create about 200 construction jobs during the project.
"This new pediatric facility shows Springfield Clinic's continued commitment to the central Illinois region," Cal Thomas, chief development officer, said in the release. "Facility upgrades like this are an investment into our community of caring."
In addition, a new one-story medical laboratory will be built on the site of the former Family Service Center at 730 E. Vine St. The site is one block north of South Grand Avenue and between South Seventh and South Eighth streets.
The clinic bought the property from the longtime Springfield social-service agency for $750,000 in April, according to Sangamon County property records. Family Service Center has since moved to 919 S. Spring St.
The existing building will be torn down before construction begins this summer, Fitch said. Completion of the new lab building is expected in the late summer or early fall of 2023.
The 25,000-square-foot lab will replace the medical lab currently in the basement of the clinic's Main Campus East complex at 1025 S. Sixth St. The new facility will allow the clinic to accommodate the growing number of lab tests needed by patients and get those tests processed quicker, Fitch said.
"I think it's going to be a great addition to that area of Springfield," he said. "It will be a state-of-the-art clinical lab."
The new one-story building will also accommodate drive-through lab testing that became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Once completed, the site will replace a drive-through testing site now at 701 S. Sixth, Fitch said.
On the north side of Main Campus East, the four-story addition is expected to open by the end of 2022 and will cover 36,000 square feet. Only half of the building will be fully built out and furnished so the rest can be served for future needs, Fitch said.
The "driving force" behind the additional space will be to reduce waits for patients to receive scans ranging from magnetic resonance imaging to computerized tomography and ultrasound, he said.
Design work for the main campus addition and lab is being handled by the Springfield office of Farnsworth Group, while the Farnsworth Group and St. Louis-based Lawrence Group are designing the pediatrics building. The general contractor for all of the projects is O'Shea Builders in Springfield.
Dean Olsen is a senior staff writer for Illinois Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-679-7810.