Rehab hospital planned for Modesto

kcarlson@modbee.comFebruary 14, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
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— City officials confirmed Thursday that an 80-bed rehabilitation hospital is planned at Coffee Road and Mable Avenue in Modesto.

HealthSouth California Real Estate LLC recently submitted a proposal for building the 70,000-square-foot hospital on 5½ acres at the northeast corner of Coffee and Mable. The city Planning Commission is expected to consider the multimillion-dollar project Feb. 25.

Plans for the rehab hospital surfaced as an aging population nationwide increases the demand for different levels of care beyond traditional hospitals. Medical centers also are facing federal rules that will penalize them financially for patients who are admitted repeatedly.

Last month, Central Valley Specialty Hospital Inc. announced it would open a long-term acute care hospital in downtown Modesto in April. Central Valley will care for patients who are chronically ill, require skilled nursing care or are dependent on ventilators.

HealthSouth focuses on rehabilitative care for people recovering from stroke, trauma injuries, hip-replacement surgery or neurological illness. The goal is to improve speech, strength and mobility so the patients gain more independence.

The Modesto area sees a growing demand for these types of facilities, one health care executive said.

"We often have to send these patients out of the area," said Mike King, chief operating officer for Doctors Medical Center of Modesto. "We need partners in all areas of the continuum of care to manage patients in the appropriate setting."

Alabama-based HealthSouth Corp. has a network of rehab hospitals, outpatient satellite clinics and home health agencies in 27 states and Puerto Rico. A representative could not be reached Thursday.

Information on jobs and a timeline for building the Coffee Road facility were not available.

City Planning Manager Patrick Kelly said that, according to the permit application, the Coffee Road hospital would be built in two phases. The first phase would have 48 beds in a 53,900-square-foot, single-story building. The second phase would add 16,600 square of feet of hospital space with 32 beds.

Kelly said HealthSouth told the city that a primary focus will be post-surgery patients who need physical therapy.

Gia Smith, chief executive officer for Central Valley Specialty Hospital, said the patient population at the HealthSouth hospital would be different than people who'll be served at the downtown care center.

"Our patients are more sick," said Smith, who has a master's degree in nursing and formerly worked for HealthSouth. "There is a big push to get patients out of (traditional) hospitals to the level of care they need. Because people are living longer, they are prone to chronic illness and you need to have a place for these types of patients."

Smith said the 100-bed Central Valley hospital, which will occupy the former City Hospital at 17th and H streets, expects to care for patients referred by about a dozen community hospitals and medical centers in the region.

The CEO said a phone system should be operating in a week so that prospective patients or their families can call for information. The downtown hospital expects to start scheduling patients for admission the last week in March.

Central Valley plans to hire 150 people in the next 10 months and is holding a second job fair Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel, on the 14th floor.

Smith said 900 job applications were received at an initial job fair Wednesday. The hospital needs to hire nurses, nursing assistants, dietitians, social workers, case managers, admitting clerks and housekeepers.

The HealthSouth hospital on Coffee Road also will put people to work in a health care job market that has recently seen layoffs. When it is fully built, the 80-bed rehab center is likely to have staff similar in size to the downtown hospital's.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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