Southern Oregon health care system to spend $1B on expansion

In this 2014 file photo, a surgical technician and charge nurse for surgery prep for a spinal surgery at Asante Ashland Community Hospital on Dec. 5, 2014.

A $1 billion investment by Asante will boost the Southern Oregon health care system over the next 10 years.

Asante’s single largest project is a $420 million expansion of its Rogue Regional Medical Center this fall, adding 323,600 square feet to the hospital in east Medford, an effort that will take almost three years to build.

The addition, one of the biggest building projects in recent Jackson County history, would take place on the north side of the existing hospital, with the top two floors of the six-story structure dedicated to women and children. The existing hospital and ER will undergo 79,000 square feet of renovations as part of the project.

Medford planners are reviewing the proposals, which will require city approval.

The intensive care unit would add another 41 beds, bringing the total to 64. The operating rooms would expand to 20 rooms from the current 15.

“We’re extremely excited by the expansion of the Rogue Regional Medical Center,” said Scott Kelly, Asante’s president and chief executive officer. “I’m most excited about the new cancer center.”

The $64 million center, which will feature radiation therapy, chemotherapy infusion services and support services, will be a standalone building totaling 80,000 square feet and will be a short distance from the hospital. Construction is expected to start this spring, with completion near the end of 2021.

Asante sees 2,000 new cases of cancer each year in Jackson and Josephine counties and expects that number to grow by 20% over the next 10 years.

Instead of going to multiple buildings for treatment, cancer patients will find everything under one roof, including more private spaces, support services and expanded efforts to make sure people are guided through their treatments. Other complementary services will include support groups, massage and a resource center.

Kelly said the expansion effort is needed to keep pace with the needs of the 600,000 people in Northern California and Southern Oregon who seek medical care from Asante. With the region’s growing elderly population, the need has increased for more cardiac and cancer care.

By providing a broader range of services, Asante will be able to treat more patients with advanced illnesses locally, though it will continue its partnership with Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

Medford won’t be the only community to see major construction by Asante.

The Spears Cancer Center on the campus of Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass will be expanded by 21,000 square feet, bringing the size to 32,000 square feet. The cost will be $12 million, with completion expected by 2021.

Emergency care will get a boost at Three Rivers with a doubling of its size to 22 beds. The $12.7 million project is expected to be completed in the fall.

The behavioral health clinic in Medford will be expanded from 18 to 24 beds. Construction will cost $6.8 million and is expected to be completed in April.

More construction is on the drawing board for both Jackson and Josephine counties, with 19,000 square feet of new medical offices. At each of the two locations there will be a family-medicine practice and an urgent-care clinic. A third medical clinic is also anticipated in Medford, and it will total 90,000 to 100,000 square feet.

The expansion will require adding 200 new positions at Asante, including doctors, nurses and X-ray technicians, phlebotomists, housekeepers and other staff.

Asante currently has 6,000 employees in Jackson and Josephine counties, which works out to about $1.5 million a day in salaries and benefits.

Kelly said many of the expansion efforts are being driven by the continued needs of elderly patients.

“We’re the busiest cardiac center in Oregon,” he said.

Asante has three main sources to pay for the expansion, including money set aside for capital projects and bonds, which are essentially prevailing interest rate loans.

“We’ve been planning for this for the past 15 to 20 years,” Kelly said.

About three-quarters of the money has been saved, and another $200 million will be from 40-year bonds.

The remaining $50 million will be raised from the community from local philanthropists.

“This was the way that Rogue was built in the first place,” Kelly said.

He said the expansion will not affect the cost of services for patients, noting that the hospital works with both Medicare and Medicaid on the cost of procedures.

Asante’s three hospitals in Southern Oregon saw 100,000 emergency room visits in 2019 and had 24,000 patients who were admitted.

There were 2,505 births, 331 patients in the neonatal intensive care unit and 703 open-heart surgeries.

Colleen Padilla, executive director of Southern Oregon Economic Development Inc., said a large percentage of newcomers to the valley are retirees who come here partly because of the health care system from both Providence and Asante.

“It’s a very attractive region for our older citizens,” she said. “Asante is just responding to demand.”

Padilla said the increased size of the hospital will make it one of the largest facilities in the valley, though Amy’s Kitchen in White City and Harry and David both have large campuses. Amy’s has 450,000 square feet of space.

She said Amy’s, headquartered in Santa Rosa, has continued to expand its facility since it bought a tract of land in White City in 2006.

Medford City Councilor Mike Zarosinski said Asante has been a good partner with the city of Medford over the years, and he said the health care organization has become a regional center.

“It’s very encouraging that people are investing and spending money in the community,” he said.

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