CLEVELAND, Ohio – Starting at 7 a.m. November 5 Custodians will begin moving patients out of the cramped old hospital on the MetroHealth System’s W. 25th Street campus and into the spacious new Glick Center acute care hospital.
In 12 hours, the move will be finished, leave the 365-bed towers empty of patients after 51 years of service as the center of the Cuyahoga County public hospital system.
Inside the 380-bed, $759 million Glick – highly visible from Interstate 71 southwest of downtown Cleveland – patients will find a sleek, modern design combined with floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a jungle-themed mural created for children and technological advancements meant to usher the hospital into the future of healthcare.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught hospitals the need to be able to add more patient beds quickly. The 11-story Glick was designed with this principle in mind, although the design phase actually began long before the pandemic.
“In an emergency, this tower can expand to over 600 beds,” said MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros. of the new vitreous installation. “During COVID-19 people were talking about caring for patients in auditoriums and hallways – we don’t need that.”
Boutros — who is one of Cleveland’s longest-serving CEOs of any major corporation, hospital or institution — is leaving MetroHealth at the end of the year after nearly 10 years at the helm. He leaves MetroHealth after overseeing the success of much of its multi-year, multi-building transformation project, intended to uplift the community surrounding MetroHealth and address the social determinants of health.
In August, the hospital system opened its Vía Sana affordable housing project in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood of Cleveland. Vía Sana – which means “healthy way” in Spanish – is the first $15 million investment in MetroHealth’s $60 million mixed-use development aimed at improving both the physical and economic health of the community adjacent to its main campus.
Construction of the new $140 million ambulatory care center and administration building, called the Apex Project, began last year. delivers on MetroHealth’s promise to transform its main campus into a “hospital in a park” and create a more welcoming neighborhood. The Apex project includes the renovation of the hospital’s Rammelkamp Education and Research Center and a 700-space car park for patients and visitors.
Apex was funded from cash reserves, not the bond fund.
The transformation project also foresees the creation of a 12-acre park by 2025.
“We used to provide excellent care in old buildings,” Boutros said. “Now we’re going to provide great care in great buildings.”
MetroHealth dedicated Glick with a community celebration on October 8. But the big day comes almost a month later.
The task of moving patients from the old hospital to Glick was carefully planned, said Melissa Kline, registered nurse and senior vice president, chief system nurse at MetroHealth.
Caregivers and patients will take three predetermined paths from the old hospital to the new facility.
Nurses and respiratory therapists will accompany patients, and additional caregivers will be stationed at Glick to receive patients. Safety monitors and crash carts will be placed along transfer routes between hospitals.
Patients in intensive care, who depend on drugs running continuously in an IV or on a ventilator, will be the most difficult to move safely, Kline said.
“We’re not losing anyone,” Kline said.
Inside Glick, patients and families will find private patient rooms, ceiling-mounted lifts, and rest areas for family members. Large flat screens will display the patient’s care plan for the day.
Digitally coded ID badges will only admit visitors to the floor where their loved one is hospitalized, to protect patient privacy. Caregivers have smart badges that allow them to communicate with each other.
The old hospital and the place of external consultations will be demolished in 2024.
It is essential to focus on the underserved
Glick’s opening comes as MetroHealth prepares to fill the void created by the loss of inpatient services this year at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center near downtown and at the University Hospitals of Bedford and Richmond.
Like MetroHealth, St. Vincent is a safety net hospital. But while St. Vincent has eliminated patient beds, MetroHealth is in the midst of a construction boom.
As state and local hospital systems reduce inpatient beds in favor of outpatient care, MetroHealth is bucking the trend. Glick will increase its total beds, from 365 in the old towers to 380 in Glick.
Earlier this month, it opened the $42 million, 112 beds MetroHealth Cleveland Heights Behavioral Health Hospital, to treat bipolar disorder, depression, substance abuse and other mental disorders.
Does this expansion make sense for MetroHealth?
“With St. Vincent’s closing, the need for an inpatient facility that has a strong focus on the underserved — which is MetroHealth — becomes even more critical,” said Tom Campanella, director of resident health at Baldwin Wallace University. “It becomes even more important to ensure that MetroHealth is on the cutting edge of technology.”
It was cheaper for MetroHealth to building a new facility than remodeling an aging facility that could no longer meet the needs of the community, said Brian Lane, president and CEO of the Center for Health Affairs, which advocates for hospitals in northern Ohio.
With the addition of Glick, the health care system is well positioned to serve the Cleveland area as its population ages, Lane said.
That’s because MetroHealth expects a 20% increase in the number of patients treated at Glick within three years, Boutros said. Northern Ohio’s aging population will place an increased burden on hospitals. Patients are getting sicker and spending more days in hospital.
The hospital system expects to be able to fully staff Glick, despite national and local shortages of healthcare workers.
“People come to MetroHealth for the mission and they stay for the culture,” Boutros said. “It’s not without its challenges, but we haven’t had the staff turnovers that other health systems have experienced.”
The project is on time, under budget
The current phase of the transformation project – Glick, the new garage and the new ambulatory building – is on schedule and on budget, Boutros said.
Glick was budgeted at $759 million, but actually costs less — around $670 million, Boutros said. Keeping to schedule with minimal delays and pre-purchased materials has saved the hospital system money.
The savings were used to add beds to the project, as well as fund the upcoming 12-acre green space and other aspects of the transformation project.
“We took the saved dollars and deployed them to other regions,” Boutros said. “The savings are all still going back to the community to do a good job.”
Construction of the Glick Center was funded by $946 million in Hospital Revenue Bonds, as well as other internal capital sources. Bonds are a form of borrowing that will be repaid over time. The difference between the $946 million raised by the bonds and the actual cost of Glick helped pay for certain other projects related to the overall transformation project, as well as some of the existing debt that was refinanced.
No taxpayer money was used, Boutros said.
Thus, MetroHealth asks the community to bet on its future financial results.
“I love every one of them”
Boutros believes the time has come to hand over the reins of MetroHealth to a new leader. He trusts new CEO Airica Steed, who will take over in January, but he trusts MetroHealth employees the most.
“These are the 8,000 most amazing people I have ever met in my life. I love every one of them, because they love every one of our patients,” Boutros said.
Most people have forgotten that 10 years ago “the common wisdom was that we were going to close within a few years,” he said. “Today we are an essential and thriving part of the community.”
What turned things around? Employees became convinced that what they were doing was essential for the community. This mindset, combined with strong strategic planning, was an “incredibly powerful force”, he said.
“It was not me who changed the direction of this organization,” Boutros said. “It was every employee who said they were on board – that they wanted to be part of something extraordinary.”