BILLINGS - St. Vincent Healthcare announced Thursday plans to build a "replacement" hospital at its current Billings location.
Hospital officials said during a news conference that a new, state-of-the-art hospital building is planned next to the current hospital in downtown Billings.
The new hospital is set to be located a little farther east, sitting along North 27th Street, which is the main route running from I-90 through downtown up to the airport. Officials say the central location is strategic and designed to help to serve the region, though a location on Billings' West End was considered.
"Being in the medical corridor is very important, with close proximity to the airport and to the Interstate," said St. Vincent President Jen Alderfer. "But it wasn’t a question of one or the other. It was an opportunity to think about 'and,' so we are also committed to serving the western Billings market, and we have expansion plans to serve there as well."
The decision to build a new facility hinged on a cost-benefit analysis: it was less expensive than modernizing the aging facility.
"We know that old hospitals are difficult to maintain. They cost tens of millions a year," said hospital COO Krikor Jansezian. "Our units are beautiful. We have a beautiful campus, but we know that structural integrity isn't going to last long enough."
St. Vincent leadership doesn’t expect the funding plan to be completed until late 2023, and a final cost isn't yet known. Once ground is broken after that, it will take five years to complete.
Parking could be a problem once construction starts, but St. Vincent hopes to build a new parking garage first to offset that issue.
"We have to find about 100 new locations," Jansezian said. "Ideally, we want to construct our own parking structure first. Once we do that, we can go into the Poly and 27th corner and start with our construction (on the hospital)."
A notable feature of the future facility is airflow that meets post-COVID infection control standards and increased oxygen capacity. It will allow all 295 rooms - an increase from 253 - to be transformed into an ICU room within minutes. The overall key will be efficiency in a state-of-the-art space.
"I will walk new halls, perhaps with fewer steps," joked RN Supervisor B. Joan McCoy in her press conference speech. "And plumbing that doesn’t challenge us on a daily basis."
Leaders are still figuring out what to do with the old hospital once the transition is complete. Possibilities right now include turning it into condominiums or apartments, retail business, or demolishing the buildings to make way for green space.
St. Vincent Healthcare was founded in 1898 and is now part of Intermountain Healthcare after completing a merger in April.