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Moffitt Cancer Center may build new hospital to cope with space crunch

Hemmed in at its current location, Moffitt Cancer Center won’t be able to get additional hospital parcels from the University of South Florida, which has no land to give. So the main option under consideration is to tear down the old hospital and put a new, taller one in its place.
Hemmed in at its current location, Moffitt Cancer Center won’t be able to get additional hospital parcels from the University of South Florida, which has no land to give. So the main option under consideration is to tear down the old hospital and put a new, taller one in its place.
Published Jan. 9, 2015

TAMPA — Moffitt Cancer Center officials are considering a plan to replace the pressed-for-space hospital with a new building that would be more than twice as tall.

Most general hospitals are losing inpatient business as many procedures are increasingly done on an outpatient basis. But at Moffitt, inpatient admissions have kept going up, particularly for patients needing complicated surgeries and bone marrow transplants, said Jack Kolosky, Moffitt's chief operating officer.

Hemmed in at its current location, Moffitt won't be able to get additional land from the University of South Florida, which has no more to give, said Kolosky. So the main option under consideration is tearing down the nearly 30-year-old hospital and replacing it. Chief executive officer Alan List said the new building would have 12 stories — more that double the current five-story facility.

Construction plans would need to be creative to keep the hospital fully functioning while the new facility is being built. Those details have not been worked out, but Kolosky said the hospital would not close to patients during construction, which could take two years.

Kolosky said the new hospital plan depends on whether Moffitt can raise enough money from the state and private sources. But he also said Moffitt has to take some action to deal with its bed shortage.

"Something has to happen," he said. "For better or for worse, our number of new patients continues to increase."

Moffitt's hospital has roughly 200 beds and is routinely at full occupancy. List told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board recently that Moffitt has had to delay admissions because there were no beds available.

"We're bursting at the seams," said List.

Officials expect to decide whether to pursue construction — and funding — later in the year, likely after the new outpatient facility is up and running. Getting money from the state would require help from the state Legislature.

The idea is new enough that Moffitt officials had not discussed it with Rep. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican who is the House majority leader and one of the center's top supporters in the Legislature. She said she wasn't sure yet what state funding might be available, but she had little doubt Moffitt needs to expand.

"There's no question, if they build it, it will be full," said Young. "Sadly cancer strikes every family and every corner of this country. … Certainly I think if they feel they need more space, they know how to do all the business models" to make the case.

In 2013, about 9,330 patients were discharged from Moffitt, according to the most recent state figures. Tampa General Hospital, by comparison, had nearly 44,000 inpatient discharges, but also has far more beds, just over 1,000.

Moffitt's new $88 million outpatient facility, expected to open this fall, is not expected to free up enough space at the hospital to handle the growing number of patients requiring overnight stays.

The outpatient center will be a mile from Moffitt's main facility, on the cancer center's property on N McKinley Drive. It will mainly serve breast and skin cancer patients receiving outpatient chemotherapy, radiation and other procedures, said Moffitt's Vicki Caraway, administrative director of operations for the McKinley campus.

Bone marrow transplants have contributed to the increase in patients for the hospital. Just a few years ago, Kolosky said, Moffitt handled about 200 transplants per year. In 2014, there were more than 400. And those patients typically require a 30-day stay.

Moffitt, which carries the prestigious National Cancer Institute designation, draws patients from the Tampa Bay area and beyond. Other cancer hospitals around the United States have also expanded in the last several years. Last month, for instance, Ohio State University opened a new 21-story cancer center.

If Moffitt does end up pursuing a new hospital, the Tampa Bay area could have two major health care-related construction projects under way around the same period of time. The University of South Florida wants to build a new medical school in downtown Tampa. The Florida Board of Governors will consider the medical school project later this month.

Contact Jodie Tillman at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @jtillmantimes.