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Expansion Will Make Roanoke Memorial Hospital One of Virginia's Largest

Carilion Clinic

Southwest Virginia’s largest hospital is about to get even bigger.  Carilion Clinic announced a major expansion Wednesday.

"We actually operate, and have for some time, at 100% occupancy.  We’re full all the time," Carilion Chief Operating Officer Steve Arner told reporters and Roanoke officials.    Arner said the expansion will add about 400,000-square-feet and, in the process, make Roanoke Memorial Hospital one of the largest in the state.

The project announced Wednesday will add beds to the emergency department and a much-needed needed observation unit.  "We often have patients in the emergency room waiting for an observation or admission bed," admitted Dr. Patrice Weiss, Carilion's Chief Medical Officer.  "And this will allow us to open up beds for those patients who have just come to the emergency department and need care."

Construction will also allow for a consolidated cardiovascular institute.  A new behavioral health building will go up across Jefferson Street. Weiss said demand for those services is growing.  "We also know that as the population of the United States ages, cardiovascular needs and cardiovascular disease increases."  Demand for  behavioral health and psychiatric services has also been increasing, Weiss said, partly fueled by the opioid crisis.

Officials said the changes have been on Carilion's wish list for years.  But Weiss  added that Carilion’s wish list is really made up by what the community needs. "Our community needs more access to care, easier access to care and this is really a way for us to better serve the community."

Additional parking will be added under the new hospital wing and in a new garage that will also be built across Jefferson Street.

Credit David Seidel/Radio IQ
The project will expand the current south end of Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

Construction is expected to begin later this year and take about 5 years to complete. The total price tag is about $500 million, including new equipment and furnishings.  Carilion Chief Financial Officer Don Halliwill said the project will be financed through a bond issue.  He said several factors reduced Carilion's risk in greelighting the project: A recent bond rating upgrade, stable financial operating margins over the past five years and the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia. A 10-year, long-term capital plan includes investments in other Carilion sites and services across western Virginia.

Carilion is buying some of an adjacent property now owned by the Western Virginia Water Authority.  Gary Robertson, the authority's executive director for water operations, said Crystal Spring will still be used as part of the Roanoke Valley’s drinking water supply.  The historic Crystal Spring Steam Pump Station will remain open.  The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is managed through a parternship between the Water Authority and the Historical Society of Western Virginia.

***Editor's Note: Carilion Clinic is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.

David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.