Hospital expansion on budget, so far, but a little behind 

Construction to accommodate 780 beds at the city-operated Laguna Honda hospital is under way and on budget, while the fate of a building for another 420 beds remains uncertain.

Laguna Honda Hospital serves about 1,050 long-term patients, but the existing city-operated facility is in violation of state hospital codes, which prompted the need for the rebuild.

The project originally called for the construction of four buildings totaling 1,200 beds, but escalation of construction costs resulted in the project being scaled back.

The cost increase also sparked a debate about the kind of care The City should offer to long-term patients. Long-term patients could benefit from a setting outside of the hospital in home-care or community-care situations, which would also cost The City less money. By only building 780 beds The City could save in operating costs millions of dollars a year, which could be used to serve another 790 long-term patients not in hospital beds, a City Controller’s Office report found. Also, these patients would have more independence, which translates to a better quality of life.

The ultimate decision of whether to build the fourth building will be up to the Board of Supervisors and the mayor, said John Kanaley, executive administrator for Laguna Honda Hospital. Kanaley said the hospital has not taken a position on whether to build the fourth building.

Any decision to scrap the fourth building would likely come under attack by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, which represent the hospital’s employees.

"The decision on the fourth building doesn’t have to be made until 2008," Kanaley said.

As debate over the fourth building looms, construction is on budget for the three buildings, according project manager John Thomas. The project cost is $482 million, of which $299 million came from a 1999 voter approved bond.

"We feel the budget is adequate to construct three buildings that we have. We are a couple of months behind. We suffered some loss of time during the heavy rainfalls at the beginning of 2006," Thomas said. "We should be OK."

Construction started in July 2005 and the South Residence Building, with 300 beds, is scheduled for completion in October 2008. The Link Building, which includes 60 beds and all the "insularly services needs to support the facility," is scheduled to be completed in January 2009. The remaining building, The East Residence, with 420 beds, is expected to be finished in February 2009.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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