UH Ahuja’s $236 million expansion is part of $1.4 billion hospital construction boom across Northeast Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio — When patients walk into University Hospitals’ Ahuja Medical Center Pavilion now under construction in Beachwood Alan Papa hopes the experience will be like walking into a first-class hotel.

“We’re trying to make sure that we have that high touch, calming, service-oriented process that we’ve built at UH Ahuja,” said Papa, chief operating officer for University Hospitals East Market. “What people will notice is, ‘Am I in the hospital? I don’t feel like I’m in a hospital.’ “

Expectations are high for UH Ahuja Phase 2, a $236.1 million project that will expand bed capacity, create hundreds of jobs, make patient access easier and place a focus on wellness, emergency services and expanded operating room access.

This is one of several hospital construction projects that are either recently completed or in the works across the region. The projects, taking collectively, add up to an eye-popping $1.4 billion.

In UH’s case, the project includes a 216,000-square-foot hospital pavilion addition, and a 78,000-square-foot Drusinsky Family Sports Medicine Complex. Construction is already underway in Beachwood. Both buildings will have three floors when they open in 2023.

A new women and babies center, the Steve and Loree Potash Women & Newborn Center, is expected to deliver about 2,400 babies annually. The UH Ahjua Emergency Department will be expanded to become a Level II trauma center accommodate a predicted 20% increase in ER visits; operating room capacity will increase; and the new emergency department will increase capacity and be equipped as a Level II trauma center.

“Our operating rooms at UH Ahuja are pretty much running almost to capacity, so we need growth,” Papa said. “As we bring other services to the campus, there will be an increased need for surgical specialties to get operating room time.”

Construction has already begun, though UH scheduled a formal kickoff its Phase 2 expansion project with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday.

The Ahuja expansion also allows the health system to prepare for a future that emphasizes outpatient services over hospital stays. When Ahuja opened a decade ago, knee replacement patients routinely spent two or three days in the hospital.

“Now we are doing knee replacements and sending them home that day, so those beds are being filled by patients that have more serious healthcare conditions,” Papa said. “This expansion is really trying to match the needs of the community.”

Hospital building boom

The UH Ahuja project is part of a recent health care building boom across Northeast Ohio.

Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights recently broke ground for its $15 million Lozick Cancer Pavilion, an addition to its existing cancer center.

hospital construction

The construction crane at the MetroHealth System Glick Center will soon be taken down. These images, taken in June 2021, show the project’s recent progress. The 11-story hospital is scheduled for completion in 2022. Credit: Multivista/MetroHealth

The MetroHealth System Glick Center, a gleaming new $946 million 11-floor hospital under construction, is a cornerstone of MetroHealth’s $1 billion Campus Transformation project.

In 2019, Summa Health opened a new patient tower on its Akron Campus, marking the first phase of a $350 million transformation that includes improvements throughout its Barberton campus.

Summa is currently constructing a $77 million behavioral health facility, and recently opened its new Stow-Kent Medical Center.

See more details for these projects and others regionally at the bottom of this story.

New facilities allow for greater efficiency in delivering care, Papa said.

“The reason (behind hospital expansions) is not only to improve patient outcomes but also to improve the patient experience,” Papa said. “We need to make sure that we are as efficient as possible. With older buildings and older facilities, you can’t do it as well.”

J.B. Silvers, a professor of health care finance at the Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management, sees similar reasons for the health care building boom.

“Much of it, like MetroHealth, is replacement of older outdated facilities,” Silvers said in an email. “Others are designed to meet new patient care needs created by advances in technology and knowledge. At the same time, much care has moved out of the hospital, leaving inpatient facilities with more complex and expensive services.

“But none of this,” Silvers continued, “would happen without the greater payments negotiated by hospitals from insurers.”

Here is a closer look at the medical services coming to UH Ahuja Phase 2:

  • Steve and Loree Potash Women & Newborn Center: Maternal-fetal health services, labor and delivery rooms, a neonatal intensive care unit, obstetrics emergency room and family gathering spaces. UH estimates that the center will deliver about 2,400 babies annually.
  • Drusinsky Family Sports Medicine Complex: Outpatient rehabilitation space, a sports walk-in clinic and dedicated high-tech imaging.“The hallmark of this (complex) is really a large, open indoor synthetic turf field,” Papa said. “We’ll be able to rehabilitate everybody, from an athlete up to stroke victims and hip replacement patients that are going through rehabilitation.” The sports medicine complex includes the Cutler Center for Men, offering a full range of services ranging from prevention and wellness care, to specialty care.
  • Expanded emergency department and Observation Short Stay unit: The enlarged emergency department will be able to handle a projected 20% increase in emergency visits, and will have a dedicated imaging department. The former emergency department will become a new short-stay unit for observation patients with private rooms.
  • Operating room: Expanded to include more operating rooms and pre-and post-op spaces.
  • Breast Health Center: Will deliver the full spectrum of services, from preventive and wellness care to breast cancer treatment.

Clinic, MetroHealth and others busy building, renovating

Here’s a snapshot of some of the other major health care construction and expansion projects, either recently completed or under way, across the region:

hospital construction

This artist rendering shows the interior of Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital Lozick Cancer Pavilion in Mayfield Heights, which will be an addition to the Clinic’s existing cancer center. The Clinic recently broke ground for the new $15 million pavilion. It joins other recent hospital building projects, such as the one at UH Ahuja.

Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital Lozick Cancer Pavilion

Type of project: Expansion.

How patients benefit: The 10,600-square-foot addition to the hospital’s existing cancer center will focus on patient experience through a home-like environment, dedicated music and art therapy rooms, private and community rooms for infusion treatments, and patient navigators.

Estimated cost: $15 million.

Timetable: 2023 completion. (Ceremonial groundbreaking was July 1).

hospital construction

Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center is replacing its downtown Akron location with a new orthpaedic and reconstructive/plastic surgery hospital in Fairlawn. The lobby and dining room are depicted in this artist rendering.

Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center

Type of project: New construction.

How patients benefit: The 165,000-square-foot orthopedic and reconstructive/plastic surgery hospital in Fairlawn will replace Crystal Clinic’s current Akron site. The hospital will house orthopedic surgery, reconstructive/plastic surgery, physical therapy, diagnostic digital radiology imaging, and more.

Estimated cost: Undisclosed.

Timetable: To be completed fall 2021.

Lorain County VA Clinic

Type of project: New construction.

How patients benefit: This larger clinic in Sheffield Village allows the VA to implement its Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) model, which gives patients specialized care using a team approach. The additional square footage also allows VA to bring radiology services back to Lorain County.

Estimated cost: The VA entered into a $20.1 million, 20-year agreement with Carnegie Management and Development to develop the property.

Timetable: Opened July 7.

hospital construction

This is an aerial view of the MetroHealth System Glick Center taken in June 2021. The project is one of several expansion projects University Hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic and other area health systems are undertaking.

MetroHealth Systems Glick Center

Type of project: New construction.

How patients benefit: The 11-floor new hospital is the cornerstone of MetroHealth’s Campus Transformation project, which aims to address social determinants of health.

Estimated cost: $946 million project.

Timetable: To be completed October 2022.

MetroHealth Cleveland Heights Medical Center

Type of project: Expansion.

How patients benefit: The expansion creates a new behavioral health facility serving teens, adults and seniors with drug and alcohol addiction and behavioral health issues. It will add 110 inpatient beds and is expected to serve 5,000 patients a year.

Estimated cost: $42 million.

Timetable: To be finished late 2022.

ProMedica Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation at MetroHealth

Type of project: Expansion and renovation.

How patients benefit: The new Physical Medicine and Rehab research program, located in the former Deaconess Hospital on MetroHealth’s Old Brooklyn Campus, will provide intensive rehabilitation services and 24-hour skilled nursing care. Investments at the Old Brooklyn Medical Center include new space for the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute.

Estimated cost: $18 million.

Timetable: Finished 2021 (Construction to begin this autumn.)

MetroHealth Family Dentistry

Type of project: New construction.

How patients benefit: The 18-chair clinic offers a full range of dental care, and has on-site dental imaging, such as X-rays. The clinic also has 3D printers that will be used to make custom dental appliances, crowns and restorations the same day of a patient’s appointment.

Estimated cost: $6.7 million.

Timetable: Opened July 1.

Summa Health Behavioral Health Pavilion

Type of project: New construction.

How patients benefit: The 60-bed inpatient and outpatient Behavorial Health Pavilion will house a partial hospitalization program with outpatient services, such as psychiatry, addiction medicine and therapy for traumatic stress.

This is Phase 2 of the Summa Health Master Facility Plan, a multi-year, $360 million transition of all services from the Summa Health System St. Thomas campus to the Summa Health System Akron Campus. The plan was announced in 2019.

Estimated cost: $77 million.

Timetable: To be completed in January 2023.

hospital construction

Summa Health’s new 56,000-square-foot Stow-Kent Medical Center, which opened in June, delivers health care to that portion of Summit County, including primary care, health screenings, and personalized specialty care. The project is one of several that Northeast Ohio hospitals have undertaking recently, pumping money into the region’s economy.

Summa Health Stow-Kent Medical Center

Type of project: New construction; also part of Phase 2 of the Summa Health Master Facility Plan.

How patients benefit: This 56,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility brings 15 new services to the community, including primary care, health screenings, and personalized specialty care.

Estimated cost: $20 million.

Timetable: Opened June 2021.

Summa Health’s Rootstown Medical Center

Type of project: Expansion.

How patients benefit: An enlargement of the existing center will provide room for services such as an Urgent Care, behavioral health, orthopedics, sports medicine, corporate health and more.

Estimated cost: $3.6 million.

Timetable: Completion in September 2021; a new physical therapy practice will open across the street in August.

St. Vincent Charity Health Campus

Type of project: New construction.

How patients benefit: The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland has plans to create a health campus with medical, educational and social services in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood, with the hospital as anchor.

Estimated cost: To be determined.

Timetable: To be determined.