Emory setting stage for new hospital tower

Emory University Hospital looks to be in line for a new 210-bed tower across the street from its current Atlanta facility.

The Emory Board of Trustees earlier this month approved the site for the new tower, according to an email from Dr. S. Wright Caughman, executive vice president for health affairs, to Emory Health Sciences Center faculty and staff.

The new tower would be located on Clifton Road in front of Emory Clinic Building B.

The trustees “also approved the expenditures needed to begin the planning, programming, and due diligence activities to support the bed tower,’’ the email said. It added that approval also came for “a number of enabling projects such as site preparation, utilities services, ingress/egress improvements, and parking enhancements.’’

An Emory Healthcare spokesman declined to comment Monday on the project.

In the past few years, the recession dampened the drive for new capital projects, but now health care construction appears to be on the upswing.

Other new hospital projects in metro Atlanta include Piedmont Newnan Hospital, expected to be completed in February. WellStar Health System has proposed an $80 million “health park’’ for east Cobb County, aiming for a 2013 opening.

The new hospital construction is a national trend, said Armand Balsano, an Atlanta-based managing director of Navigant, a national consulting firm.

There is a resurgence in hospital capital expansion since the depths of the economic downturn, he said.

Much of the focus of the capital improvements is to increase efficiency and patient satisfaction, Balsano said. And there’s a drive for specialty care upgrades.

Balsano cited an $800 million expansion of the Duke University Health System, with a new cancer center.

“Hospital facilities continue to age,’’ he said. “No one wants to be disadvantaged by outdated facilities.’’

Upgrades at Emory University Hospital have been under discussion for some time. Emory announced plans in 2006 for a replacement for the 587-bed facility, to be built in phases across Clifton Road from the hospital’s current site.

Then, two years later, Emory announced a new construction proposal, which included a 250-bed hospital. Emory said then that 100 of the beds would replace beds currently at Emory University Hospital, for a net gain of 150 beds on Clifton Road.

Emory currently operates hospitals in Midtown Atlanta and in Johns Creek, and recently announced a partnership with St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Emory University Hospital was founded in 1904. It began operating at its present site in 1922. The original 1922 building was a gift from Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Co., who was one of Emory University’s greatest benefactors.