Saturday, September 22, 2001

More than a hospital planned

Campus could promote biomedical research

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Middletown Regional Hospital's plan to move to Warren County calls for building much more than a hospital on its 300-acre site.

        An architect's drawing released Friday shows the $125 million hospital to be built by 2006 along Interstate 75 and Greentree Road. The drawing shows a park-like “Health and Technology Campus” with ponds, fountains and seven other buildings orbiting the facility.

        If all goes according to plan, some of those buildings could have far-reaching influences on biomedical development, an industry that many Greater Cincinnati corporate and academic leaders are hoping to grow.

        In addition to the physician offices and satellite health services commonly seen near hospitals, developers are considering building a school that would emphasize training in biomedical science. They also envision luring one or more private biotech companies to the campus.

        “The state of Ohio is lagging behind many other states in terms of job growth. Even in Butler and Warren counties, the types of new jobs that are coming in are not the kinds of jobs that reflect the knowledge-based new economy,” said Douglas McNeill, chief executive of Middletown Regional.

        Attracting high-pay, high-skill jobs to the area will be a top priority for the new campus.

        “We have more than 250 types of jobs at our hospital,” Mr. McNeill said. “If you think the labor shortage is a problem now, wait until 10 years from now.”

        In addition to doctors and nurses, the health industry demands a variety of allied health skills, from pharmacists to radiology technicians to physical therapists. Beyond that, medicine depends on researchers, computer experts and business skills of every stripe.

        Mr. McNeill said the medical community must forge stronger ties to the education sector to prepare for the rising health demands of aging baby boomers.

        “We don't need to go to the Philippines to recruit nurses. We've got enormous pools of talent in every inner city in America,” Mr. McNeill said. “We're going to have to grow and train our own next-generation work force.”

        Middletown Regional Hospital is part of a 16-member Education Leadership Alliance that includes Miami University, Sinclair College, Middletown public schools, and county vocational training services.

        That alliance has already started some cooperative health education efforts, Mr. McNeill said. In the next several years, many of those efforts could be centralized at the Middletown Hospital campus.

        Groundbreaking remains about two years away. Architects are still working on designs. The hospital also awaits a decision from the Ohio Department of Transportation on a proposed interchange at I-75 and Greentree Road.

        If the project sticks to its schedule, the hospital would be complete in 2006. Medical offices and related services would open within another two years. The health technology training concept and other plans could be as far as 10 years from completion.


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